05/05/2016 4:48PM

Churchill Downs, TVG still at impasse


Churchill Downs and Television Games Network have not been able to reach an agreement allowing TVG to broadcast the track’s races live on its flagship network or on its website for this year’s spring meet, officials for both sides said this week.

The signal blackout on TVG’s most widely distributed network and the company’s account-wagering platform began on Saturday, when Churchill began its spring meet, according to John Hindman, the legal counsel for TVG. However, the live television signal is available on TVG2, a network that TVG rebranded after acquiring its only competitor, HRTV, early last year. TVG2 is available on far fewer televisions than the flagship station.

Churchill’s vice president of communications, John Asher, noted on Thursday that TVG’s customers are still able to wager on Churchill’s races on TVG’s website despite the lack of a race signal. However, he said the two companies have not been able to come to an agreement on a contract for “streaming rights” of the track’s races that would also enable TVG to broadcast the races on its flagship network.

“We have made a proposal that would provide the network with streaming rights and enable it to televise most of our track’s spring-meet races,” with the exception of races covered under broadcast and streaming agreements with NBC Sports, Asher said. “We feel our proposal is reasonable and would benefit both parties, and it remains on the table.”

Churchill’s races were broadcast live on TVG’s flagship network during the spring meet last year, with the exception of the races covered by the NBC agreements.

The blackout is likely related to the competition between the two companies in the account-wagering market. Churchill’s account-wagering operation, twinspires.com, has been showing the track’s races live and taking bets on its races since the start of the spring meet. 

The weeklong run-up to the Kentucky Derby is the most important promotional period of the year for account-wagering operators, as the companies attempt to exploit national attention on the Derby to entice casual racing fans to their operations. Compared to committed racing fans, casual fans are far less likely to already have a betting account than hard-core fans.

Churchill was a former partner in HRTV with another racing company, The Stronach Group, but Churchill sold its stake in 2014, the year before TVG acquired the network. With the acquisition, TVG gained the signal rights to all of the tracks owned by The Stronach Group for seven years, as well as the existing contracts held by HRTV. At the time, Churchill had distribution contracts with HRTV, but the company has not commented since the acquisition on the terms of those contracts.