Jockey Club Moves on Expanded TV Coverage

The recommendations in the McKinsey Report, a document designed to drive growth in Thoroughbred racing, already are being implemented, including plans for four consecutive Saturdays of television coverage leading up to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

In a recent interview with The Blood-Horse, Jockey Club president and chief operating officer James Gagliano said television time has been secured for the 2012 package, with details to be announced soon. Racetracks have agreed to coordinate their schedules to accommodate the coverage.

The coverage is expected to be different. Gagliano said The Jockey Club is working with various production companies to come up with new ways to present horse racing and tie it in with a digital strategy recommended by McKinsey & Company.

“We’re really trying to create story lines and production values that will drive further interest (in the sport),” Gagliano said. We’re going to try to use good consumer research data to help make decisions, and we’re going to hire people that have experience in building new products and services.

“The plan is to hire people that have done things in other sports fields.”

Racing coverage on mainstream networks has diminished in the past 10 years after a growth spurt in the early 2000s, and Breeders’ Cup is nearing the end of a long-term television contact with ESPN. Meanwhile, NBC has stepped up with live weekend coverage of racing from Saratoga and Keeneland this year.

Horse racing is covered on a daily basis by HRTV and TVG. Both networks have a dedicated advance deposit wagering system.

Gagliano said national television programming is the “apex,” but he acknowledged the two racing networks “Do a great job day-to-day. The existence of HRTV and TVG has been a tremendous opportunity for our industry to service the growing offtrack market.”

Gagliano said that, contrary to comments made during a panel discussion at the International Simulcast Conference in early October, The Jockey Club “had extensive discussions” with TVG and HRTV in regard to the McKinsey report recommendations. He said HRTV executive producer Amy Zimmerman has been subsequently involved.

McKinsey & Company focused on network television in its report, which was released in August during the Jockey Club Round Table conference. The report identified areas in which racing can improve, including fewer but stronger race days, a broad social media strategy, building resources for horse owners, and television initiatives.

Gagliano said progress has been made on all those fronts. A model that predicts pari-mutuel handle when races are presented at certain times in coordination with other tracks already has been used by Canterbury Park with success, Gagliano said.

InCompass, a Jockey Club subsidiary, is building a program that helps schedule races and another for a “condition book matrix” that will assist racing secretaries in writing condition books. The programs could be launched in January 2012.

The McKinsey report didn’t break much new ground but its recommendations for the most part have been embraced, in part because The Jockey Club has committed roughly $10 million to the effort.

“This is a three- to five-year program,” Gagliano said. “We expect there to be some revenue (generated) to keep this moving forward. We need to build a business case for advertisers and sponsors.”

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