Like in Baseball, Racing's Innovation Has Been Good, Except for One Thing

The Los Angeles Dodgers baseball club is going through a cable provider dispute, and this fight has resulted in a television blackout of their games in most of the entire Los Angeles area since last year.

But there's good news. As Mina Kimes writes in her ESPN magazine piece "Stupid Tech Tricks", they are innovating, for the "fans" and "fan engagement":

"On April 14, the team issued a press release. It didn't mention the blackout. Instead the Dodgers announced, in a statement brimming with enough tech jargon to arouse a roomful of MBAs....

"The sports industry is ripe with opportunities for innovation," the release continued. "There are countless ways for new technology to create more powerful consumer experiences, heighten fan engagement ..."

Kimes adds in her piece: "Such as ... finding a way for fans to watch games?"

Last evening I re-read the NTRA report, done way back in 2008, by their online marketing
task force (with a few people I know and respect and you probably do too). Some of the items in the report are brilliant and were very ahead-of-their-time in 2008. Some of these suggestions were implemented in some form (although it took many years in most cases, which is a shame) and they work. A good deal of the items depend on an industry working together, and that's not really a good thing for implementation. Regardless, the ideas and the will were probably there.

Since 2008, the racing industry's innovations for racefans has been decent, I think. TwinspiresTV, live video streams, some HD, the work of the tracks on social networks have all been pretty good.

But, like with the Dodgers and MLB, bells and whistles and "fan engagement" are something that's done in addition to the core product - which for baseball is being able to watch a game, for racing about consuming a good gambling product - and without the fundamental building blocks it's little more than noise.

In fact, the NTRA report in several instances references the issues that are holding it back.

In horse racing, if you want to consume the product online and support the industry long-term through wagering, you often have to resort to some mind-boggling sorcery.

If you reside in a state where the horse racing alphabet braintrust wants you at the racetrack, you can't bet online. In some states you can bet online, but with a "source market fee", which stifles your consumer choice and makes the game harder to consume. If you live in these states, or say California (where you might want to get away from high juice in exotics and get a couple of points back on your betting), well, you can use your grandma's address in Florida and sign her up. Just make sure you pay her tax bill.

 How about being in Canada? There's one ADW, and it's a monopoly. To sell their signal to other ADW's - in Europe and in the US - Woodbine made it a condition that these competitors kick out their Canadian clients.

And, hey, if you go through all of that, we have six horse fields at 17.5% juice for you. Pop the champagne!

Free video, free PP's, youtube replays (do you believe this industry once tried to charge for race replays?) are all good. Bells and whistles are good, but like baseball:

"What's ironic, though, is that MLB already owns some of the most impressive technology on the planet: the league's streaming service, which fans in LA can't access because it would jeopardize the team's multibillion-dollar TV deal. So Dodgers diehards must find their own workarounds, like paying for an online service that masks their addresses, a trick that lets them access local games on MLB.TV. Some might call it innovation."

Without a core product that can be consumed fairly, at a fair price, and in a uniform fashion, you don't really have a product, and no technological innovation can fix that.

Enjoy your Wednesday everyone.

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