With viewing options outside of traditional television avenues continuing to expand, the focus of those responsible for putting on live horse racing telecasts is to get viewers on any platform they can.
In a panel discussion about televising the sport during the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program's Global Symposium on Racing Dec. 5, representatives from both TVG and Breeders' Cup downplayed the importance of traditional television ratings while emphasizing reaching fans and potential customers in any way possible.
"Ratings are sort of a thing of the past. It's going away," said Peter Rotondo, vice president of media and entertainment for Breeders' Cup. "The content is available in many places, so ratings not so much. Total eyeballs—total audience delivery—(is the goal)."
For Jesse Chemtob, director of business development at TVG, success in televising horse racing, regardless of how viewers consume the content, is determined by handle.
"For us judging success is—we really look at lifts on handle, on particular days when we're doing specific things," said Chemtob, who also indicated the television and advance-deposit wagering company is pursuing getting its signal on streaming services like Roku and Amazon Fire. "We really use the power of TV to drive innovation and to keep people engaged and churning, essentially."
That's not to say the panel dismissed conventional television as a means to reach viewers. Moderator Amy Zimmerman, vice president and director of broadcasting for The Stronach Group, pointed to the perceived success of a recent Amazon broadcast of an NFL Thursday Night Football game, in contrast to the audience on conventional television.
"I saw an interesting stat about a week and a half ago that said 300,000 people had streamed the Thursday Night Football game on Amazon, and what a great number that was," Zimmerman said. "In the next sentence it said 14 million people watched it on NBC. ... I'm of the strong belief that traditional television is indeed a dinosaur, but I don't believe it will be extinct within the course of my career, and it's still the largest animal roaming the earth."
Another consistent topic during the panel discussion in Tucson, Ariz., Tuesday was the desire for more high-definition video in horse racing. TVG, for example, is capable of high-definition broadcasts, but does not get displayed in HD on the majority of cable and satellite carriers.
"TVG isn't carried largely in HD on most of the cable or satellite operators, and I think once we're able to get a critical mass of HD carriers, we'll be able to compete with other major sports," Chemtob said. "We're the only major sport that isn't carried in HD widely on a year-long basis. Obviously NBC and NBCSN are well covered in that regard, but I think that will have an impact on growing interest in the sport, because quite frankly it's just a subpar product when it comes to the quality of the signal.
"Next year will be a growth year to push that effort and get that over the line to people across the nation."