07/29/2002 12:00AM

TVG begins Internet airings


NEW YORK - Television Games Network has begun broadcasting the races from its partner tracks live on its Internet betting site, breaking with its long-held strategy to broadcast the races only on its television channel.

The races began to be available on July 24, opening day of the Del Mar and Saratoga meets. Del Mar and Saratoga, which are both TVG partner tracks, are the two most popular meets in the country by average daily handle.

The broadcasts are raw simulcast feeds from the tracks, not TVG's studio production. Only TVG subscribers can watch the broadcasts.

Live broadcasts of races were already available through a variety of Internet betting sites, including Youbet.com, a partner service of TVG, and many of TVG's competitors, including the six sites operated by AmericaTab.

TVG was originally envisioned as a widely distributed cable and satellite channel supported by live wagering through the Internet, telephone, and interactive television systems. But the network has been slow to reach agreements with cable operators, limiting its reach. The network is currently available on the DISH network satellite service and on local cable systems in Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Louisville and Lexington, Ky.

TVG has also been under pressure from Magna Entertainment, the racetrack company that has announced it wants to form a television service to compete with TVG. Magna officials, who balked at signing an agreement with TVG to offer betting on the company's 10 tracks late last year, have said they will launch the channel sometime this year.

John Hindman, TVG's vice president for communications, said the availability of the races over the Internet would make people more likely to open accounts, increasing the service's popularity and making the channel more attractive to cable operators.

Hindman also said that the live Internet broadcasts would benefit subscribers who wager on a race that is not shown on the television network. TVG broadcasts six to eight live races an hour, meaning some of the races from its partner tracks are not broadcast live.