05/04/2016 2:10PM

TVG not authorized to show Churchill's live races

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Churchill Downs has not authorized Television Games Network to broadcast the track’s races live on its flagship network or on TVG’s website for this year’s spring meet, an official for TVG said on Wednesday.

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 competitor, HRTV, early last year. TVG2 is available on far fewer televisions than the flagship station.

Customers of TVG are still able to bet on Churchill’s races through TVG’s website, the officials said.

Though Churchill officials did not respond to requests for comment by early afternoon, the blackout is likely related to Churchill’s position as a competitor to TVG in the account-wagering market. Churchill’s account-wagering operation, twinspires.com, was showing the track’s races live on Wednesday and taking bets on its races. 

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.

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 term of those contracts.