TVG Deal Part of Hawthorne's Bigger Plan
by Ryan Conley
Date Posted: 3/7/2008 6:13:03 PM
Last Updated: 3/9/2008 8:48:46 PM

TVG has announced an “exclusive” multi-year agreement that ends an 18-month hiatus of Hawthorne Race Course from the racing network’s line-up, and the Illinois track says it is all part of bigger plan to broaden its own plans for a self-run wagering entity.

Content from Hawthorne, which began its spring meet March 7, will be part of regular network programming, TVG said in a news release, with advance deposit wagering services and video streaming also available to its customers.

TVG general manager David Nathanson said in a telephone interview that the deal, which was finalized March 7, was similar in spirit to the California experiment that allows broad distribution of that state’s track signals.

ADWs handling Hawthorne will still have access to signals, but TVG will realize what Nathanson called a “television fee.”

“We get a fee associated with any wager process by any other ADW provider,” he said.

TVG and Hawthorne parted ways in September 2006 in what TVG called a mutual termination of an exclusive contract, and the Illinois track’s races were shown on competitor HRTV. The latter network, which is co-owned by Churchill Downs Inc. and Magna Entertainment, still showed the afternoon of March 7 that Hawthorne was a partner track on its Web site.

Attempts by The Blood-Horse to get clarification from HRTV officials weren’t immediately successful. The  2006 contract termination between TVG and Hawthorne came a few weeks after the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association reportedly decided to withdraw consent for the Arlington Park signal to TVG.

Hawthorne simulcast director John Walsh said the track was happy to be back in association with TVG, and said a January deal with Youbet.com will hopefully lead to an ADW platform run on behalf of Hawthorne, Fairmount Park and Illinois harness tracks Balmoral Park and Maywood Park.

“Youbet is our preferred provider,” Walsh said. “(The four tracks) got together and said, ‘Do we want to use 10 different technologies, or do we want to use one?’ Youbet came up with the best deal. They are going to provide the best technology.

“We had been looking at Youbet and TVG, and thought it was best to work on what is best for the industry. This doesn’t lock anybody in, it doesn’t lock anybody out. We help TVG, and TVG helps us. And Youbet benefits. Hopefully, the whole industry moves towards this.”

Nathanson said TVG was glad to have Hawthorne back in the fold.

“We are always thrilled when tracks come back to us,” he said. “It’s recognition that TVG can deliver something that no one else in the marketplace can.”

In its year-end financial report, parent company Gemstar-TV Guide International said TVG was available in 29.1 million U.S. households and 19 million international households. HRTV is available in about 13 million households, according to most recent available estimates.

Arlington Park’s contractual agreement with TVG expired last year, and, as a property of Churchill Downs, is now part of the content offered by TrackNet Media Group, the joint venture of CDI and MEC. Hawthorne is an available wagering entity on both XpressBet, an ADW service which is owned by MEC, and Twinspires.com, an ADW which is owned by CDI.

“We haven’t shut anyone out,” Walsh said.


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