It's a good read, that broaches all topics related to the changing landscape of print, online, mobile and tablet. It also is neat because it shows how out of touch some of the cable companies have been for some time. The statistics are compelling and the evidence of that narrative are formidable. Both scripted and unscripted television are up against it. More people are watching via Apple TV and others by buying episodes, Netflix takes viewership away, and people are finding cable more and more expensive as they raise their prices.
Knowing the above is happening, one might be curious to see that in Canada, it was announced yesterday, Rogers Sportsnet paid magabucks to televise hockey in this country for the next dozen years. They are going to use their massive media platform to show games like they've never been shown, and leverage their brand to increase their bottom line.
The big difference, it appears, is that TV might be dying, but live TV - when it comes to some major sporting events - still has a pull. Case in point, the NFL.
- The top 16 most watched TV shows of 2013 are NFL games
- A sixty minute weather delay for an NFL game this year drew more viewers than everything on TV, other than an episode of NCIS and the Big Bang Theory
Are they crazy? Racing isn't the NFL is it? No, it's not. But, although I disagree this is a panacea of some sort, I don't think they're crazy. The rub is trying to create an event, for event driven television, that people want to watch. Racing does have a few things going for it in the changing landscape, in my opinion.
i) Old people watch television: Racing wants to run away from it, but it's there. Ask a 70 year old dude what channel the football game is on and he'll say "seven". Ask a 16 year old and he'll say "I don't know, I watch it on a pirated feed". My twitter feed sure hates Fox News, but they are brilliant. Bill O'Reilly helped make a billion dollar network on the backs of 50+ viewers (check their demos sometime) and continues to, while all other cable news organizations struggle to eat into one tenth of his viewership. The aging demo is not an enemy to a niche sport. Racing can, and should embrace it.
ii) Racing does not have the foggiest how to show live events: We see Beadles and the resulting twitter wars, floppy hats, a guy dressed as a man and horse, drinking a half Keg of Genny lager, and all the rest. We have human interest stories about the horse who ended up in Suzy's field who is running in the fourth. None of that has really worked, but so what. At least there is upside.
iii) Gambletainment: As gambling becomes more and more accepted, with poker being passed in Jersey and a slots parlor on every street corner, the gambling side of racing can be explored more and more on the air. This is a good thing, because this market has never been attacked with a live racing event. If in ten years there is a $35 million dollar pick 6 pool like they have in Sweden because we've made things easier when it comes to wagering lottery bets (like is likely to happen in Ontario), things can explode. In Australia they sometimes ran the "Fat Quaddie" promotion, which is a zero percent rake pick 4. It can draw millions and if it's on a TV event day, people watch.
iv) The built in ecosystem: 10,000 people showed up for the Gold Cup and Saucer in a town of 50,000. 15,000 attended the opener at the Meadowlands. 45,000 showed up for the Jug, 10,000 can show up on a Thursday at Del Mar. And those are not the Breeders Cup or a Triple Crown race. Horse lovers are everywhere, and so are bettors at simo-outlets, and in front of their computer screens all day. This is a demographic smorgasbord and provides racing with a ready made base.
I doubt TV, in its present form, will "save" racing. Nothing will save racing, clearly if the status quo continues to be embraced. However, there are a few upsides. People may be watching less of Oprah, but they can still be drawn to live events they can't get anywhere else, if that live event is compelling to watch.