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Germany on the Ball TVwise
Apropos to last week's blog on the failure of American racing to sell itself to national TV networks comes news from Germany that the Direktorium, orkeerman Jockey Club, is preparing to make a big pitch to German TV networks.
As David Conolly-Smith reported in Monday's Racing Post, Direktorium president Albrecht Woeste conducted a press conference to discuss the decline of German racing last Thursday. The problems facing German racing are considerable. The country's keystone track, Baden-Baden, almost went out of business last year, losing its May meeting and only staying on its feet when a new buyer was found in time to save its prestigious late summer meeting. The track in Berlin- Hoppegarten- once as important to German racing as Longchamp is to French racing, has been through a series of ups and downs as the old East Germany has struggled to keep pace with the old West Germnany since reunification.
That the Germans can admit publicly that German racing is in decline is more than can be said for our Jockey Club, the NTRA or Breeders' Cup Ltd. Newly appointed Direktorium general manager Andreas Tiedtke summed up his plans by saying : "Our main aims are to make racing more attractive to racegoers, punters and sponsors and to improve the efficiency of racecourses by centralized marketing. We are trying to get German racing back on TV and hope to introduce a new and popular betting opprotunity."
The concept of "centralized marketing" is one that the American lords of racing should embrace. Unfortunately, there is very little that is centralized about American racing. There never has been, and as long as that situation endures, we will continue to lose ground to all other sports and all other forms of gambling.
It sounds like the Direktorium understands that racing is both a sport and a venue for gambling, as well as an event that makes for a great social occasion. While German racing is available in betting shops and subscribers to racing-only TV stations, there has been no national TV coverage in Germany since 2003. We wish the Direktorium the best of luck in its new initiative, and hope that our Jockey Club, the NTRA and all other concerned organizations pay close attention to their progress.
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Alan, Do you ever go to Japan or Hong Kong? I'd really like to know why they can get huge crowds (and enormous betting). From the outside it seems to me that the horse racing industry in those places must be doing something right. (I have been to Hong Kong five times, to Japan twice. In both countries they market the sport properly, as gambling, sport and a social occasion. The Japanese are particularly adept at promoting their jockeys, the best of them, like Yutaka Take, achieving the status of rock stars. Admittedly, there is no casino gambling in Japan, but Asians in general are not stymied by taboos against gambling as a sin. In Hong Kong, of course, other sports like soccer are small time, so racing has a much clearer field there. Moreover, in both Japan and especially Hong Kong, the amount of racing is held in check by the respective Jockey Clubs. Always leaving them wanting more apparently has its benefits there as far as racing is concerned.) AS
Hi Alan, so happy for das bros. But in regards to getting a major network to cover horse racing, as in the days of old, something beyond ratings will have to drive the beast. And ratings are important only insofar as that ratings drive the amount of money that the networks can charge for an advertising minute. The Super Bowl gets the greatest ratings of the year, and hence while giving us a seat on the 50 yd line, the network that covers the event charges the most money. It follows that said network reaps the highest profit. At least for that day. So given that horse racing will never get great ratings, someone has to step up to the plate in a new creative way (I know-probably won't be happening). Either the advertisers have to willingly pay more for a minute or the Horse Racing industry will have to subsidise the process of having it's “sport” broadcast to the world At-Large. And I am someone who remembers Kauai King losing in his 1966 attempt for the Triple Crown and feeling the pain that one only feels in their youth. The event was on national TV. And the hook was set. It would be 7 years before Secretariat would gain the triple (on national TV) and I can try and talk horses with many who will only discuss that one great horse. Until more people are exposed to the beauty of horse racing on a national level, I fear, that horse racing will become forgotten and ignored. And for the networks to start showing the product, someone has to prime the pump with money. Because the ratings will never be great, but the “sport” needs the exposure.
The news about Germany's attempt to have a national PR and TV effort to revive horseracing sounds a lot like NTRA's original mission statement. I hope that they have more success than we did. The NTRA seems to have deteriorated into just another "all talk and little action" institution. The real problem I feel is the tracks' owners short term commitment to their own tracks with no long term vision of racing itself. You only have to wonder why Gulfstream intends to run against Calder or why Santa Anita is plagued with a plethora of short fields. A racing commissioner would never allow that. If Germany succeeds while the US racing industry still flounders maybe that will spur us to look at why other major sports in the US go from strength to strength while we look on bemused at why our beautiful sport languishes. Gerry from Miami
Alan, Readers of yours are used to the constant barrage of "Why European racing is better than American racing", but this entry may constitute a new high in Shubackian absurdity. There may not be as much national TV in the U.S. as any of us would like. Maybe some criticism of U.S. officials is warranted on that front. But, for goodness sakes, there hasn't been a televised race in Germany since 2003, and that country is "on the ball TVWise"? Take off those large cup, provincial blinkers, Alan. --WP (The point is that the German racing industry is trying to do something about it in a country with few national outlets, while the American racing industry, with four national networks from which to choose- including Fox, which is owned by an Australian racing fan in Rupert Murdoch- appears satisfied with the status quo. I can remember a time when racing was on TV in New York every single Saturday. In those days, 20,000 was a small weekend crowd in New York. The crowds in New York City now on all but the biggest days are not much bigger than what they get at German tracks) AS