Tuesday, April 30, 2013
TV and Internet Must Provide Better Racing Coverage
LOS ANGELES, April 30, 2013—The Pull The Pocket blogger launched a true thought-provoker last week.
The piece, "Television is Not Trending Racing's Way" observed in part that "Churchill, the Jockey Club and others have been paying to have racing televised, with the hopes it catches on with the masses that matter - a new viewing audience. So far, it looks like things are not going overly well."
After observing that viewership of the preps had not increased appreciably, he asked "What strategy can be used to up viewership and get people excited to watch racing as a live event?"
The underlying problem is that while such telecasts currently acquaint the new viewer with the actual running of a live race, along with the pre and post-race pageantry, they provide very little of what gets most of us excited about watching a race -- the handicapping and wagering strategizing that precede it.
Until novices get to see the variety of ways players use past performance data to make selections and construct wagers -- and then connect that with what happens both in the pools and on the track -- it’s hard to appreciate all the rewarding challenges the game can generate.
Additional TV money should provide extended exposure as to how past performance data products are used to support informed betting decisions prior to a live race broadcast.
One possible way to do this is to use each prep telecast to demonstrate the application of a product from one of the various popular data vendors, e.g., Daily Racing Form (DRF), Bloodstock Research Information Systems (BRIS), Equibase, Ragozin, Thorograph, EQUIFORM, JCapper, etc., in running down the featured race entrants.
Each telecast could also show that week’s resultant wagers being entered and processed through one of the various ADW vendors, e.g., Twin Spires, XpressBet, DRF Bets, TVG, etc.; all possible weekly advertiser.
The finale would take place on Derby Day when the pre-race activities would include a rundown by each data vendor -- a competition within the competition. A spike in ADW accounts to enable new fans to participate would seem a likely result of prep telecast advertising.
Another factor that increases interest is familiarity with the horses and their connections: Consider that the most well-publicized figure to embark on a recent Triple Crown campaign was Smarty Jones. His following included school children and empathetic connections. The result was unusually voluminous press coverage.
Rooting interests are the key to all sports. Working against this familiarity is the minimizing of opportunities for horses on the Derby trail to face one another multiple times. But taking the path of least resistance has always been part of horse racing’s DNA. Everyone needs to win to get in, but with so many ways to get there, rivalries seldom have a chance to develop.
In addition to the prep telecasts, perhaps more programs like last weekend’s Kentucky Derby Preview show could marry entertainment with education. Racing’s complexities should be embraced, not ignored. Once viewers are comfortable with the content, there would be plenty of time for traditional coverage; features on owners, horsemen, life on the backstretch, celebrities, etc.
Information, PTP points out, is motivation for participation: "... With twenty entrants and a world of social media, health reports, press conferences, clocker reports, video and free past performances at places like Brisnet, there are hundreds of ways and thousands upon thousands upon thousands of reasons to like one of those twenty horses."
"Reasons to like a horse." is a key concept. Whether it’s the Derby itself, a prep, or some other race, bettors want/need more and different perspectives as to who could win under what circumstances. It’s no longer sufficient to parade pontificating "experts" across the screen to deliver folksy one-line summaries of an entrant’s chances.
Lower takeout, lower bet minimums and new wagering opportunities are proving to be viable incentives for increasing fan participation. Suppose takeout and breakage on win bets were uniformly lower at all venues, and minimums on 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6-horse parlays within and across them were $2, $1, $.50, $.25, and $.10, respectively?
Such "Select Six," "Flexible Five," "Friendly Four," "Thrifty Three," and "Daily Deuce" parlays would not only level the playing field with racing’s insiders but it also would reduce the competitive advantage that batch betting by computer teams give wagering syndicates.
Surrounded as we are by technology and its ongoing development, racing must jump on the information bandwagon and provide as much access to as many sources as it cost-effectively can.
One thing that’s missing is readily-accessible, low-cost/free, on-line past performance databases with or without proprietary values, i.e., speed ratings, etc., with a cut-off date disallowing the handicapping of current races). If such data were available such that viewers could look outside the box and discover new ways to interpret traditional data, a “handicapping problem” would be easier to deal with.
An area of viewing concern is that seldom are the horses of individual interest visible during the live race given how races are traditionally viewed by the camera. Views focusing on individual runners must be available for live racing as well as replays. There must be a way to provide multiple camera views simultaneously on a television or computer screen.
The emergence of Twitter and the resultant cult following celebrity handicappers is an interesting phenomenon. Like the Beyer speed ratings, their impact on the tote board is significant. Determining value has become increasingly difficult.
Imagine an app capable of creating a true odds line for any race and identify legitimate last-minute(s)-to-post overlays by factoring in actual odds movement, Tweeted information, and other relevant, late-breaking input, etc. Anything is possible if fresh minds are given free rein.