02/20/2015 3:26PM

TVG deal could lead to coordinated post times


Racetracks in the U.S. are more likely to coordinate their live racing schedules to avoid overlapping post times due to the recent acquisition by Television Games Network of its only broadcast competitor, HRTV, according to officials involved in the deal.

The deal likely will result in racetracks being separated into two classes, with the most popular tracks broadcast on TVG and the signals of less-popular tracks residing on HRTV, according to the officials. As a result, racetracks that are shown consistently on each network are more likely to seek separation from the post times of competitors, the officials said, in order to maximize the amount of time that viewers have to evaluate a race and place their bets.

The officials said that a greater degree of coordination will be possible in large part because HRTV and TVG will no longer show the same races on their networks, freeing up slots for 5,000 additional races to be broadcast live annually between the two networks when production operations are consolidated at TVG’s Los Angeles studio in the next several weeks, TVG officials said.

TVG, which is currently available in 35 million households, according to the network, likely will continue to broadcast six to eight live races an hour, which ideally would allow for seven to 10 minutes of broadcast time between races. Since TVG currently reaches almost twice as many households as HRTV, the most popular signals will be concentrated on TVG, making a Saturday afternoon in April a showcase for live racing from Santa Anita, Gulfstream, Keeneland, and Aqueduct, for example.

For some small tracks, however, the merger of the two networks will mean losing airtime on the more widely distributed TVG, creating the potential for strained business relationships. TVG officials said that some tracks have deals guaranteeing a certain number of live broadcasts on TVG, and that those deals will continue to be honored through the term of the contracts. However, the officials said they did not expect those deals to “have a lot of impact” on programming decisions.

As a result, an exact separation between class A and B tracks is not likely to take place immediately, if ever, especially as some tracks tweak their live racing schedules to take advantage of empty airtime slots on TVG or HRTV.

“We have been doing a lot of work on scheduling the two networks, and it is safe to say that there is plenty of quality content for both,” a TVG official said in response to written questions. “As the more broadly distributed platform, TVG will continue to feature many of the tracks that it has in the past in addition to Gulfstream and Santa Anita. There will also be schedule considerations based on regional strength of distribution, availability of signals, and other factors.”

Critically, perhaps, the merger will not dampen the competition between TVG’s account-wagering service and XpressBet.com, owned by The Stronach Group, the former parent of HRTV and the owner of Santa Anita and Gulfstream. According to the officials, the deal does not prevent either network from promoting its own account-wagering service alongside the broadcasts of races, so TVG will be free to drive customers to its account-wagering operation while broadcasting races from Stronach Group tracks. In addition, TVG is planning to promote its account-wagering operation on HRTV.

As with any company that owns both racetracks and an account-wagering operation, the Stronach Group retains a far larger share of the revenue from a bet on its tracks when the wager is placed through its own account-wagering service vs. the account-wagering operation of a competitor like TVG. That could lead to ill will between the companies if betting begins to migrate heavily to either one of their ADWs.

The situation regarding the broadcast of content from tracks owned by Churchill Downs Inc. is also not entirely clear yet. The contract providing HRTV with the rights to broadcast live races from Churchill’s properties – Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Fair Grounds in New Orleans, and Arlington Park outside Chicago – is still in force at HRTV as a result of the merger, according to Scott Daruty, the president of HRTV. But that contract specifically assigns the rights to HRTV, Daruty said, leading to questions as to whether TVG will be able to broadcast the races as well.

It would seem to be in Churchill’s best interests to have its races broadcast on TVG, but the company also operates its own account-wagering company, twinspires.com, and relations between Churchill officials and TVG have not exactly been cordial over recent years. Twinspires.com and TVG are the two largest account-wagering companies in the U.S., and Churchill Downs bought a 50 percent share in HRTV in 2007 as a counterweight to TVG’s market power. The company sold the half-share back to The Stronach Group last year, but its live broadcast signals remained exclusive to HRTV.

Churchill officials have not responded to specific requests to clarify the status of the company’s contract with HRTV since the merger was announced Wednesday.

Joanne Spencer More than 1 year ago
Not really happy about this at all! I have a paid subscription to HRTV.com and wonder if this will mess with my watching!!
Mr. Mongo98 More than 1 year ago
I haven't stopped laughing. That arrogant twit PincayIII, and Kurt Hoover in a makeshift Clown Set, while the TVG Boys were enjoying the Luxury Digs at Santa Anita, so funny.
Lawrence MacSelwiney More than 1 year ago
Was out a Santa Anita on Sunday. The HRTV tent was gone where they would broadcast live from and replaced by the TVG tent with Schrupp and Paul. What a joke. Is it possible for HRTV to lose the Sanata Anita signal? I hope not. I don't know the particulars, but I am going to close out my TVG and open an Express Bet account.
Dick Brasher More than 1 year ago
You are speaking with a forked tongue.You obviously have a TVG account,if you are going to close it,but are upset that TVG is taking over HRTV?Why would you even care?
Mark D More than 1 year ago
More Trainer Interviews BEFORE each race. And phone interviews with trainers from small tracks. Its FREE and the players want it.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
They started doing just that at M-Lands last year. Trainers would even send "tweets" for broadcast on how their horses were doing.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
**They did it for the pacers and trotters, did not continue for the T-Breds as far as I remember.
tbio12 More than 1 year ago
Any chance of HRTV being broadcast on Direct TV?
Mark More than 1 year ago
The Paulick Report asked TVG that question and they replied "We intend to continue and grow our distribution relationships for both TVG and HRTV". which does sound like a politician's non answer, but in fairness to TVG,they are going to have to negotiate with Direct tv for fees before it ever gets on Direct TV.
Bugsy Anderson More than 1 year ago
How about tracks tell marshalls to have horses near the gate at 1 minutes to post and start loading at zero? Tampa and gulfstream are getting real bad. At zero minutes , they are quarter mile away and walking to the gate
Bob Rose More than 1 year ago
Oh wait, does this mean I won't have to pay HRTV for the bad checks?!?!?! Woo Hoo, all's well that ends well.
Doug More than 1 year ago
TVG hosts are so much more entertaining than most of the HRTV clones. Aaron, Hoover, Christina, are good but Zoe, Lurie, and Mandella are painful to listen and watch.
Cindy Lopez More than 1 year ago
Are you kidding?!? HRTV hosts are SO much more professional. TVG hosts are OK, and are at least enthusiastic, but please Todd - QUIT SINGING !! And is it in Paul's contract that they always introduce him with his MLB All-Star tag? Give me L. Pincay III anytime, he's the best of them all. Sad for HRTV and us. I thought competition was supposed to be a good thing when providing services to the public.
Chas More than 1 year ago
I can see Churchill not allowing their races to be shown on TVG, just because that is how Churchill is...and as for TVG and any issues from this deal with tracks, it is TVG who created them by signing tracks to those exclusive deals which was designed to keep those tracks from airing on HRTV...this deal as structured could and should help the sport, but, with the track record of TVG I expect there will be issues...
Doug More than 1 year ago
Churchill has as prominent position as anybody in the industry but continually make decisions to screw the fans and horseplayers. Somehow, someway they will manage to screw this up too and not allow us to view their races. They truly do not care about the fans.
Rob Eymann More than 1 year ago
churchill may try opt out and force people to watch it on twinspires
John Murray More than 1 year ago
If people wish to watch how things are done in United Kingdom and Australia, try cricfree tv click on "At the Races" or Racing UK channels. It is free but has annoying ads to navigate, wall to wall footy, hockey, basketball, etc even cricket, You get British racing from thee or four tracks in the morning, some US racing in the afternoons (Tampa, Sunland, Fair Grounds, Parx and Aqueduct) and Aussie summertime races in our evening. Thursdays from Meydan during the Dubai Carnival are excellent. UK winter racing over jumps at > 32 furlongs is a reminder that horses older than 4, can win and race until 8,10 years old. Almost all on turf, some artificial and dirt.
N Lad More than 1 year ago
What do you click? What is the link??
Bugsy Anderson More than 1 year ago
Hpi in canada allows us to bet on all these british tracks and swedish harness and Australia as well. Gar better racing than US racing other than tampa and gulfstream right now
Chris Jones More than 1 year ago