Good morning folks.
On Awful Announcing, columnist Matt Zemek tore a hide off ESPN for what he thinks is the dumbing down of tennis coverage. He also skewers the network for something very familiar to horse racing fans:
"Casual sports fans and TV viewers might not be able to appreciate this, which is perfectly understandable, but let it be known: The serious tennis fan wants to see the close, competitive match between journeymen or second-tier players over the lopsided (or just-beginning) match involving a superstar in week one of a tournament. Similarly, the serious tennis fan would much rather see live tennis — if live tennis is going on — instead of anchor-desk commentary."
Zemek praises the soccer coverage in the US since the 1990's for not talking down to the audience.
"A discussion of the televised coverage of tennis, or any other niche-sport product in the marketplace, is best advanced by pointing to the rapid growth and improvement in the coverage of soccer in the United States.
"Soccer coverage — not just availability of matches, but discussion and intelligent treatment — has increased over the past decade because TV networks have taken soccer seriously. To be more precise, they have covered soccer the way soccer fans would want the sport to be covered.
"In the coverage of any sport, any outlet should strive for nothing other than treating the subject matter intelligently, the way fans expect their sport to be treated. It’s that simple."
I think a lot of horse racing fans would agree. I don't watch national TV coverage of horse racing because it does dumb things down. I understand the thought process with niche sports, but I think the column has some merit.
The world of daily fantasy sports is a little different than the world of horse racing (when it comes to the customer and gambling side, that is). The competition is real, with new entrants, and legacy companies (if you can call them that - they started in and around 2011) are not standing pat.
Draft Kings has not only sponsored the Belmont Stakes, but is also at the WSOP and has sponsored a building - Madison Square Garden. Both of the big two have invested heavily in mobile and have concentrated on the user experience. I have long been impressed with Draft Kings. They were number two (and still are), but their UI is excellent (especially with mobile) and they have been experimenting with golf and MMA. I believe they are really closing the gap on the industry leader.
Draft Kings - also at the link above - is expanding into the UK. I imagine DFS soccer is the main goal there.
Handle in racing was down in June, but it really wasn't too bad. Gulfstream's signal has changed the measurement of handle the last couple of years, Hollywood Park is closed, higher handle tracks like Del Mar are racing more. Woodbine's 2015 handle is inflated with exchange rate changes. It's become a little apple to grapefruity. However, as costs continue to rise for horse owners (probably well above the inflation rate), and tracks, horse racing needs to grow handle at the very least with population growth and inflation. It needs to generate 2% or so handle growth each year to break even. It's not and that's worrisome.
The big days continue to do fairly well, however, and I think in many ways they have grown with inflation and population growth. Networks are paying more for big events, the must see events have been growing (e.g. the Mayweather fight or the women's World Cup), and it appears to be a trend. As well, horseplayers who wait in the wings for a decent card to bet have been pouncing on some big days with their handle.
Often times insiders are quick to use big events as a barometer for the health of the sport and I think that's a bit of a red herring - the sport of horse racing runs on average daily handle, not one off handle. But, it's still good news because they are putting on cards to hold some interest for those ground down by high juice, and/or lack of bettable fields. The Hong Kong Jockey Club's VP of Wagering once presented to the Asian Gaming Summit how important it is to keep bettors engaged. When you don't, they leave and many stay away forever. At the very least, the big days keep people engaged.
Have a good day everyone.
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