09/29/2011 3:19PM

TVG signs agreement with Keeneland and Del Mar

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Television Games Network, the horseracing broadcaster and account-wagering company, has re-signed Keeneland Racecourse and Del Mar Thoroughbred Club to exclusive television agreements through 2016 and has begun asking tracks to commit to high-definition broadcasts as part of a push to get an HD channel slot on satellite and cable networks, TVG officials said on Thursday.

As part of the agreements with TVG, Keeneland and Del Mar will each receive a seat on a committee that TVG is forming to explore the pursuit of the HD channel slots, which are prized territory on broadcast networks. TVG is currently available in 36 million homes on both major satellite networks and a variety of local cable networks, but the channel is only available in standard definition on all of those systems.

So far, only one TVG track, Keeneland, has made the investments necessary to broadcast in HD. Stephen Burn, TVG’s chief executive, said Thursday that TVG will begin to survey racetracks over the next several weeks about their willingness to invest in HD equipment, at which point the network will decide whether to aggressively pursue an HD slot. HD equipment can easily cost a track millions of dollars.

“Much of this depends on whether we can get a critical mass of customers that want to broadcast in HD,” Burn said. “If we can get that, then we can go to the satellite and cable networks and fight for bandwidth.”

Burn said TVG would need to invest several million dollars to upgrade its broadcast capability as well. The network is owned by Betfair, the British betting exchange operator.

Keeneland and Del Mar are two of TVG’s most important broadcast properties. As part of the agreement with Del Mar, TVG will remain the title sponsor of the Grade 1 Pacific Classic, the network said, and the Keeneland agreement includes a “multi-tier sponsorship” with the track.