Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Post Drags Eventually Wear You Out, But the Racing Can't Fix Itself

The NFL is going through some pretty amazing machinations this year. Viewership is down, as is betting.

Sally Jenkins reported today on the phenomenon, and one area she looked at was the time it takes to enjoy a game on television.
I have surmised here before about this -- it gets incredibly frustrating to watch a score, a commercial, a kickoff, another commercial, a quick turnover and another commercial. Games which used to start at 1PM and end at 3:49 so you could get ready for the 4PM game haven't been around for awhile.

I've likened this to takeout increases in horse racing. It's not one increase and you leave, it's a drip, drip drip then leave. It took years to turn off viewers, it took years for bettors to say "I have no chance to beat this game".

Racing has the same issue with post drags, though. They are excruciating. Cards get longer, and feel longer, because half the time it's tantamount to watching commercials after seemingly every play during an NFL game. It wears on you.

NFL games have gotten longer because there is revenue attached to adding more commercial time. The more commercials sold equals more money for TV rights; until the house of cards comes crashing down, that is, which might be happening.

I suspect the NFL will probably address this issue. It's fixable, even if it means slightly less revenue.

Disparate tracks notice the same correlation with post drags and revenue (handle). If Pompano Park post drags, they, like the NFL make more money. So does Gulfstream and Santa Anita. But if everyone post drags, the sport suffers, because more and more people get frustrated and leave. This, like a takeout increase, often doesn't show up this week, month, year or couple of years.

Racing, unlike the NFL, can't address this because it can't fix itself.

This tragedy of the commons issue is a plague on the sport in many ways, and this is another example. Tracks are incentivized to post drag because post dragging helps them, but the industry as a whole, like the NFL is seeing, gets hurt.  The fractured nature of racing works for its good in some ways (more points of sale, more consumer choice, etc), but overall it's a real drag on long-term revenues, no pun intended.

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