Good news from the USTA Annual meeting as funding for both the social media initiative and monetary support for tracks which wish to televise their races has been approved. As I mentioned in my last posting, it is essential to continue the social media initiative if harness racing has any hope of gaining new gamblers and owners.
With regards to monetary support for televising races, I will be the first one to say harness racing needs to be on television. The problem is it tends to appear on second tier cable channels. I realize this is done is due to college football; these channels know where their bread is buttered so it leaves little room for harness racing.
Broadcasting the Hambletonian on CBS Network is fine as it is raced before the college football season but when it comes to the Little Brown Jug or the Breeders Crown, placement on television is somewhat troublesome. While the Jug occurs in the late afternoon, it is a time when people are coming home from work. With the Breeders Crown, the last time it was at the Meadowlands, only one night could be accommodated due to the football season. Racing the Crown on Friday and Saturday will have it competing with football. Odds are with the Jug and the Breeders Crown, the majority of the audience will be hardcore harness racing fans, not reaching out to a new audience.
Instead of broadcasting the Jug and the Crown, it would be better to broadcast races in the spring or early summer when there is no football to compete against. Then there will be a chance to get on a first-tier cable channel when non-harness racing fans may be inclined to watch. Of course, it may require a made-for-television stakes race as there are no high profile races in the spring.
Speaking of television, it has been reported the USTA initiative to get a harness racing channel on the Internet is proceeding with plans to make this pay channel available to Roku users. I realize the need to go slow and have no problem with Roku being the first platform to get the channel, but soon after it is rolled out, applications to make this channel available on other platforms such as Apple TV and Fire TV is necessary to accommodate all who wish to subscribe to this channel as it is not likely people are going to jettison their current viewing platform just to get the racing channel.
This Internet channel will initially appeal to existing harness racing fans, especially those who are frustrated by the inability of getting racing on television as well as any new ones which may be created. While this will be a pay channel, the ability to have one channel to watch racing should attract customers. With races being on television, handle should increase on those races televised as customers with ADWs will be wagering on these races instead of others. Yes, most ADWs offer races over the Internet already, but the ability to watch the races on the 'big' screen will be preferable to many. The key is to get the number of subscribers required so the overall costs are covered and the subscription fee reasonable.