The overnight ratings are in, and the Derby was down 13% since 2010, and viewership hit a six year low.
In other news, attendance records were set this season and the handle was up 13.2% setting another record.
How can this be? I thought television was bringing in fans, which is why our industry wrings their hands over mainstream TV time so often? We spent money on preps, so that money should've translated to TV viewers for the Big Day in big numbers, shouldn't it have?
This juxtaposition certainly doesn't fit the racing narrative.
I believe this is nothing new. It's 2012.
I wrote this last year wondering about the push on TV from racing:
I believe racing is built to market itself in the 21st century. It is
not mass, in a non-mass, niche world. It has active participants of all
"tribes", a multivariable fan base, a double pronged market (the fan and
the horseplayer/gambler), loud and proud fans on social media and
elsewhere, a foothold with the over 55 demographic with plenty of time
and money on their hands, events that almost everyone knows, and much
It is not like football or baseball, because those sports' do not make
money when we play them. Racing makes money when we play it (e.g. when
we buy a horse or bet a horse)...... spending scarce funds on the conduit of television, in my opinion, is
putting the cart before the horse. We need to find a way to present
racing that sticks with new viewers, and gets them to participate in the
racing conversation, in some way, with us.
I think we are seeing that work right before our eyes, and it really didn't cost us very much at all.
This week on social media, the Derby was everywhere. There were people participating in the conversation. There were free past performances, there were good bets and deep fields, there were free replays on youtube of preps (remember when we used to hide those so often due to "copyright", like anyone cared?).
What about ADW's? If you read the mainstream horsemen press you'd think they are the devil. I counted several promoting the hell out of the race, offering most of their share of the rake to players as cash back. It's a shame Churchill Downs Inc seems to be in protection mode with some of these by not filtering out their signal to all.
There was a buzz about the Derby - virtually everywhere - and it was infectious. You couldn't help but join in.
Via Social Mention yesterday, even after the Derby was complete, here were some numbers.
The passion and sentiment numbers are superb - greater than NHL hockey - and the reach numbers are on par with major sporting events.
That represents a 633% year over year growth.
Mentions were up, buzz was up, handle was up, attendance was up, news items were up, searches on the web (with preliminary numbers) were up.
......but TV ratings were down.
I didn't think TV was the strategic answer for this sport for a long while. And I sure don't think so now, as I see these numbers. I believe we can pivot strategy easily with our scarce dollars, and I think we should.
Related: Social Media Stats for the 2012 Kentucky Derby (h/t to Thorotrends)