For those who have not followed the story, here is some background, from a post on the blog a couple of years ago:
For those that read the blog, a hot topic for us in local racing has been the use of television to show things the old fashioned way, versus targeting bettors in a targeted way. As most who watch Race Night on the Score know, the human interest stories, while the great puzzle of handicapping the races is going on are maddening.
As I have said before, and you have agreed , "if we have to watch another story on a feed man from north of Guelph who owns four pet ponies during a telecast I think I am going to have a seizure". In my view, not using a show like this in promoting what you are selling (i.e. gambling on the product from home) is wasted airtime.
Well it appears this might be changing. Race Night will be rebranded to 'Bet Night Live' at the end of the month. The new show will "centre around a four-race wagering contest through WEG’s online platform HorsePlayer Interactive."
At the Standardbred Wagering Conference in 2008 I spoke to several people involved about rebranding the show, and they relayed to me that talking about betting on the air ran somewhat afoul of government rules (yes it was true. The government can spend millions on TV talking about casino's but lil' old racetracks can not talk too specifically about betting). However, it appears they can at least broach the subject and have devised a plan. Long ago on this topic we spoke of creating a special Monday bet, like a "Score Pick 4" at a 14.99% takeout (making it promotable as the lowest takeout pick 4 in North America) where the bet is promoted each Monday on TV. I think an idea like that has a chance. After all, Monday's this past month all Woodbine did was highlight a pick 4 pool by guaranteeing it. Guess what, it grew. By highlighting and promoting - virtually nothing quite honestly - they got people to play it. When was the last time you saw a $58k pick 4 pool at Woodbine harness? Probably a North America Cup night. Well that is what they got bet into it last Monday.
For too long racing has had the attitude that if you show something, or offer a race, people will come just like they did long ago. It is not the way it works today, you have to offer something and promote it. You have to experiment. You have to work at it. You have to give people a reason to bet your product. And most of all, you can not bean count. It matters what your business is in five years, not five weeks; that's why many businesses write five year business plans. From a bean counting perspective, raising the pick 4 take five years ago was just fine. I would ask Woodbine how their overall nightly handles are five years hence with decreased churn from the hike.
It's not your grandfather's racing and it is not a monopoly product any longer. The Kentucky Derby can promote itself as an event with side shows galore. Work week betting at Woodbine or Mohawk is a game, not an event. If Woodbine uses this in the right way, Monday's could be their highest handle night, in my opinion, without question, and I would have this as a corporate goal.
Today some statistics were released:
- In the two-year lifespan of the network program, the total number of new sign-ups has reached 2,086, with over $5.7 million wagered.
- The new format is proving to be successful as Bet Night Live’s audience is growing. This season there has been a 30 percent hike in viewers compared to the 2009 season of Race Night on The Score.
As we noted this week in this post, I hope the Jockey Club is listening, and devising a plan to win customers, not just show racing.
In addition we can only hope Woodbine keeps trying new things, looking at offering not only the betting product, but betting value, has a plan to cultivate the new signups, and incisively track newbie bettor behavior.