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Investing in the Customer Experience - the Streams of Both Rae's Creek and Online Video

Good morning racing fans!

As is customary this time of year I was catching up on some reading, getting ready for this weekend's Masters golf tournament. In Golf Magazine, a story by David Owen looked at its history, and what makes it golf's most storied and revered events.

Back in 1934 you could not give tickets away to the tourney and it certainly was not considered a "major". In fact, in 1939, only 46 players even accepted invites (down from 72 years earlier). The course was out of the way, and it was just a regular tournament. At that point, the club President decided, according to Owen, that to thrive, "the club had to obsessively focus on the spectators."

They were visionary.

They went from a 36 hole finale on Saturday, like all other tournaments, to 18 on Saturday and 18 on Sunday. It was the first tournament to use grandstands, the first to rope off fairways so everyone could see approach shots. They were the first to link scoreboards by investing in telephone cables, and the first to hand out free pairing sheets, score sheets and full course maps.

They built the tournament on the backs of the customer, not the players or TV (there was no TV back then, of course).

I was listening to a Golf Channel interview yesterday and one of the commentators said we "talk different, act different and conduct ourselves different here." It's tradition "unlike any other" was not created by accident.

I got to thinking how Hong Kong, as compared to racing here, seems to most of us. It too is focused on the customer, has penal medication rules, accepts trainers based on integrity and how they conduct themselves. It's seemed to work for them, and it probably is the Augusta National of the racing world.

Although on track amenities are important, in North American racing they are probably not as important than at one time, because most of racing is watched via streaming video.

Fast Company had a piece in its last magazine, about streaming video and why it seems to have so many glitches. It's not what you might think.

".... live streaming at scale is more of a business challenge than a technical one. When a live stream runs into trouble, he says, a lack of bandwidth is almost never the culprit. More often, streaming services don’t plan enough for all the other things that can go wrong. Rayburn points out, for instance, that CBS’s recent Grammy stream had an issue with verifying users’ locations."

The solution for the above is investment in systems and at least some of the online players are doing something about it.

"Fortunately, the industry is finally starting to behave like it wants do better. In 2014, a bunch of big players formed the Streaming Video Alliance, with the goal of devising best practices for live streaming and standardized ways to measure the experience. The group counts Comcast, Fox, MLB Advanced Media, and Yahoo among its founding members."

Racing seems to be dependent on others (Roberts), or on deals (Equibase) for delivering some form of their product. The unfortunate part of that equation is that often times investment is not carried out as it should. Nor is it visionary, like roping off fairways was, when no one roped off fairways.

The Masters, and Hong Kong racing know who their customers are, and lean on them for growth. They have a good handle on their product, own it, and invest in it, even if return on investment is not quickly and readily apparent. Racing can probably learn a little from both entities, whether it be today, or from 85 years ago.


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