Horse racing has emerged as amongst the very few sports activities in the US that continue to go ahead, although with some adjustments. It’s the socially distanced operators in California and New York who are keeping this sport alive on television today.
Fox Sports’ ‘America’s Day at the Races’ is produced by New York Racing Association (NYRA) while TVG has collaborated with NBC sports to offer 12 hours coverage per week. The idea is to somehow keep this fledgling industry afloat, and give it maximum exposure.
Mike Mulvihill, the executive Vice President of Fox Sports said during an interview that horse racing has proven to be an ideal substitute for other sports events. He emphasized that the audience for these races has multiplied three times over the last one year. In addition, more and more people are availing horse racing odds at online bookmakers thus bringing some kind of normalcy to the betting industry too.
Changing viewership patterns
Horse racing is a sport that normally garners attention in the United States only during the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown Season. Being the only running game in town, the total viewership for horse races on NBC Sports Network, Fox Sports 2 and Fox Sports 1 has gone up by 206% compared to the similar time period in 2019.
The viewers’ profile has also changed dramatically and as per Kip Levin, CEO, TVG broadcasters have appropriately changed the tone of their programs to accommodate this new reality. Talking to the press he praised his talent and production team, emphasising how they shifted their approach from speaking to a fan who already knew plenty about the sport, to speaking to someone who is just starting out.
NYRA and TVG are keeping the action alive
Tony Allevato, Chief Revenue Officer at NYRA informed that a large number of casual bettors are coming on board NYRA’s program. The past few weeks have seen them signing up seven times the number of people they normally do in an entire year. To further boost their efforts, NYRA is offering perks like $ 20 worth of free bets to familiarize beginners with the sport. New horse racing fans are educating themselves by following the sport on the television, all thanks to a few dozen workers at Southern California Studios and Belmont Park.
Eric Donovan, Director, TV Operations at NYRA today has only 1/3 of normal staff spread out over Belmont Park. On the other hand, the regular TVG crew comprising of at least 45 to 50 people has been brought down to less than 10. Majority of the on-air broadcasters have been asked to either work from home or are stationed well apart. Officials informed that everyone has been following the local and CDC guidelines while going about their jobs. Allevato further updated that they have spaced everyone sufficiently throughout their TV trucks, ensuring no one was in close proximity of each other. In addition, they are also cleaning the facilities on a regular basis.