By Robert Marks, They’re in the Gate
After coming into it's partnership with the Breeders Cup starting in 2006
the Disney owned ESPN/ESPN/ABC Channels promised us the world in it's coverage
and promotion of the event including coverage leading up to the Breeders Cup.
Now entering its 3rd year of coverage on the Cable network, I feel like an
underfed kid at the dinner table, fed some leftovers instead of the 5 course
meal I was promised.
ESPN2 will begin coverage of racing Friday Oct. 24 from 3:30-6:30 p.m. EDT
and feature five Breeders' Cup Championship races. The Friday card is an all
fillies and Mare card complete with a very unpopular decision to rename the
Distaff the "Ladies Classic'.
On Saturday Oct. 25, ABC will air 4 races between 1-3:30 p.m. EDT before
switching to ESPN from 3:30-7 p.m. This will be the 3rd year of ESPN
coverage since taking over the coverage from NBC.
The 2007 Saturday telecast drew a .75 national rating, up slightly from
2006's .7 number. The .75 translates to approximately 1.05-million viewers.
Last years Friday card drew an anemic .3 rating. The ratings results of the
last two years on ESPN represent a roughly 50% decline in viewers from 2005,
the last year that NBC aired the Breeders' Cup.
Moving to a cable network, the Breeders' Cup figured to have a falloff in
viewership, although not as steep as it has been in the 1st two
years of coverage thus far.
When the ESPN deal was announced we were promised By Breeders Cup President
Greg Avioli that the promotion during the run-up to the event would be "unparalleled" and that ESPN and "would expose millions of sports fans to the
Breeders' Cup brand."
After televising a few "Win and Your In" programs during August, ESPN had No live TV coverage during the entire
month of September. That ESPN/ABC, home of the Breeders Cup, can go the entire
month of September without putting on
even one hour of Saturday racing is atrocious. Let me not even bother to
list the Grade 1 races that we had in the month of September that could have
been on the ESPN network. ESPN finally had a racing card on Saturday October 4th.
The promotion of the Breeders Cup during the October 4th card
centered mostly on the potential Curlin - Big Brown(since retired) BC Classic
matchup. This would have been a perfect opportunity to do a short feature on
the dazzling undefeated filly Zenyatta. Why not promote this great horse,
generating interest and also drawing attention to the Friday card, which most
casual racing fans are not even aware exists.
On the Bloodhorse Talkin' Horses chat, Greg Land, Breeders Cup Chief
Marketing officer said "the move to an all filly and mare schedule on Friday
was a racing decision not a marketing decision. We believe that the fillies and
mares deserve a Championship day of their own and that fans will enjoy two near
equal days of Championship racing."
Huh??? Does that quote make any sense to you? The fillies and mares deserve to be buried on
a weekday afternoon card that will be seen by very, very few people??
It just seems like The Breeders Cup is doing everything possible to
disenfranchise loyal fans and their broadcast partners, ESPN/ABC, are doing the
same by barely promoting the event, in effect pushing the fans to the ground
after the Breeders Cup gang punches us in the gut. In 2006 ESPN floated the
idea of showing a race during Halftime of an ESPN October 2007 Monday Night
Football Game. What happened to the idea????....nothing of course. Maybe you could have done that this year with
in his allowance race. Expose the product-especially to new eyeballs already
watching your existing programs such as football etc.
If the powers that be insist on giving the fillies and mares a day of their
own, why not tinker with the time a bit and try prime time coverage Friday
Night. You can do a 6:30-9:30 pm Friday
Television card with the renamed Distaff going off in prime time around 9:15 pm
(6:15 pm at Santa Anita). Now you are exposing great fillies and mares such as
Zenyatta, Ginger Punch, Hystericalady, and others to a prime time audience; an
audience certainly bigger than one would get on Friday afternoon. People can
come home from work, eat dinner, settle in front of their TV sets and computer
with their ADW account and bet and watch the race. This would also work out
better for the overseas audience and increase the off track handle.
Now more than ever, competition for the consumer's sports and entertainment
budget dollars will be fierce. If the Breeders Cup intends to build itself as a
2 day showcase of racings best, they must learn to truly market and use their
broadcast partner to promote and showcase the product. ESPN and its sister channels has the programming hours to broadcast weekly
programs throughout August and September leading up to the Breeders Cup and
cross promote during their other big time sporting events, but thus far they
have treated horse racing like the
unwanted step child.
Robert Marks blogs at They’re in the Gate