BloodHorse.com has recently posted two stories from it's weekly magazine, Final Turn and What's Going On Here. These pieces are related to the Thoroughbred industry advertising itself and commenting on NBC hosting all three triple crown races.
The Skinny on NBC hosting all three...consistency
Television show content has been heavily disputed by many of you loyal racing fans. The every day fan enjoys the generic pre-race profiles, and of course I do too. The long time racing fans, horsemen and serious bettors understandably have had issues with pre-show content. Not necessarily all of it, but one common criticism was more meat or depth to the stories.
One concerning issue I agree with is cinematography could be more simple than the previous few years. While I admire the coordination and beautiful shots, the progression of the race is hard to keep track of with ten or more views jumping around in two minutes.
If you have had gripes about the camera work, I would encourage you to write NBC and kindly suggest their producers involved with the live racing coverage to review footage from racetracks. Producers have the final call on managing the day's unfolding events
with directors conducting videographers and production teams. With watching track feeds, their education will possibly help piece together interesting angles that aide viewers in tracking the progression of the race. Rather than ten artistically awesome views that resemble the sky cam of college basketball. (referencing the sky camera from UK's basketball game). I admit I am partial to the blimp overhead shots though.
With the camera angles being critiqued, lets look at the content. NBC has more incentive to develop story lines and see them through the three big days. That means a months worth of content on horse racing potentially. You can have ongoing drama with horses who visit two or three of the Triple Crown races. Plenty of drama can be fulfilled to engage a non racing fan with story and enough background information in to appease the appetite of horse lovers and industry persons. A few past features I still remember and enjoyed were on Rachel Alexandra, Hal Wiggins and Chip Woolley.
Broadcasting/tv station coverage access will be a challenge and nuisance. Much of the 'lead up' coverage being hosted on versus is a loss for the industry. Cable is down due the economy and Americans realizing digital HD broadcasting is free with antennae or simply choosing web based entertainment. Versus is commonly on high channel digits or in more premium television packages. The majority of lower class, much of middle class and most young viewers will not have regular access to the pre-race stories and features that could drive growth or gain new blood. You can read statistics and details on television here.
ESPN3.com was amazing for race coverage not accessible on basic cable for the Breeders' Cup. Hopefully NBC will have an answer to that on the web. My family and I personally watched all of the coverage online last year, until the major race coverage went to NBC on basic cable. My parents use a television antennae for digital HD broadcasting and only pay for an internet service provider, which is the growing trend mentioned earlier. They save money by not paying a cable TV cost, a smart move for the current economic environment.
As for young people, if local bars carry the race, that would be a good idea, but I would encourage tracks to promote or host large viewings with the races. Opportunity for attracting new customers and getting folks introduced to the nearest track. When young people have a positive experience, they will be much more likely to come back and bring friends. My generation is social if you have not noticed =)
For engaging, encouraging and educating handicappers or fans to
handicap, How about an ongoing bank roll for specific celebrities (Jerry
O'Conell for example) through all the Triple Crown prep races and then
highlights with the three jewels.
What are your ideas to reach younger viewers, educate people on various arms of the industry, and yet fulfill the depth of love for industry members?
Now the numbers...
Complaints on coverage of horse racing versus other sports is nothing more than numbers. Capitalism basics will reveal supply and demand trends. People are demanding other sports, thus advertisers will pay more for those time/content slots, which would be prime time. If you would like to see more racing in prime time, you will need to
show the money and/or convince big advertisers to support our sport. There is a reason you see so many drug commercials for the evening news for example. Drug advertisers know this is a prime time slot, their target audience of Baby Boomers are watching, and these companies have a lot of money to push. That is another issue of sport vitality in the near and long term.
An interesting article was written in the Wall Street Journal on the value of the baby boomer age range in television. Maybe you can convince advertisers and networks that these are loyal viewers of these events and capable of drawing in the cash.
As far as sponsors, with the Kentucky Derby as the center piece, focus on fashion and lifestyle would appeal to the masses and media. The high life and celebrity engagements flow into mainstream news broadcasts regularly now.
NBC did air trailers a week before their big racing coverage last year, but a week of hard hitting ads is not early enough or as effective as long term regular select spots, so people are reminded to mark their calenders and set aside dates. The Triple Crown should be three dates to remember.