The Chat Heard (and Seen) Round the World

By Alex Waldrop, President and CEO of the NTRA

Sunday night, the NTRA hosted its fifth NTRA Live! broadcast on  Thousands of people from around the globe tuned in to watch Zenyatta extend her perfect record to 17-0.   Carrying the high weight of 129 lbs., Zenyatta gave everything she had to catch a very game St Trinians just before the wire.  It was a breathtaking stretch run and finish.  You can watch a recap of the race on our Web site by NTRA clicking here. This clearly was a banner day for Zenyatta and her connections - owners Jerry and Ann Moss, trainer John Shirreffs, racing manager Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, and jockey Mike Smith.  It was also a good day for NTRA Live!

Joining us for the broadcast were people from no fewer than 38 countries, including the United States.  It was especially amazing to see people from places like Uruguay and Vietnam participating in the live chat accompanying the broadcast. Those of us who participated in it were part of something truly special.   This is the kind of interactivity and accessibility our sport has needed for a long time.

If international racing is the future of our sport - and we at the NTRA think that it is - then NTRA Live! represents a terrific way to digitally access that future.  No matter where a horseracing fan may be on the planet, if he or she has access to the Internet, that fan can watch live Thoroughbred racing from the U.S. or anywhere else around the world. 

But this has not been easy, simple or cheap.  Since our initial NTRA Live! broadcast back in March, NTRA staff members have been working overtime to get it right for you, the fans.  You see, Webcasting is more complicated than simply showing live streaming video via the web.  NTRA Live! is a cutting edge live Internet broadcast that merges streaming live video with both in-studio and remote elements. Sunday night, Randy was in the studio and Daily Racing Form national correspondent Jay Privman joined by phone from California.  A live chat was hosted by Eric Wing from New York, and the Hollywood Park video signal was fed through a site in Nevada.

As if all of these moving parts weren't complicated enough, some of the most important variables in bringing this product to you are your computer and its internet connection speed.  But we've tried to account for those factors as well.  Taken as a whole, this is not just a brand new approach to horse racing Webcasting, but a sports presentation unlike almost anything on the Internet today.     

Behind the scenes, the lead up to last Sunday's broadcast was especially nerve-wracking  because we were switching to a new content delivery network (CDN).  The decision to switch was driven by our desire to address the problem of "buffering"  which has nagged us from the start.   Tim Turrell, our producer and one of the tech wizards behind NTRA Live!, spent the past several months in search of a solution to buffering.  His search took him to the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas.  There he found the highest quality and most cutting edge technology in the web streaming/broadcast industry.  After interviewing  five CDN companies, he chose BitGravity because they are a "tier 1" CDN with global capabilities and are amongst the leaders in HD web streaming.  Their biggest clients include Showtime Sports and CNBC.

They also streamed the Australian Open.  Their quality, combined with the price point, made them a solid choice.

The rest is history.  Our new system seemed to perform flawlessly.  The buffering was all but non-existent on my computer, and the signal was clearer than ever.  We will continue to analyze every NTRA Live! broadcast for ways to improve them. 

The digital revolution is here, folks.  And Thoroughbred racing is at the forefront of the technology.  Perhaps we didn't fire the first shot but we are definitely positioned to take full advantage of the worldwide changes that are coming.  Stay tuned to NTRA Live! for all the coverage we can get our hands on.

And let us know about NTRA Live!  Did you have any trouble viewing the broadcast?  Which races do you want to see?  Any guests you'd like to hear from?  Give us your feedback.  Leave a comment below.

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