“Why would someone with only a passing interest in horse racing, or with no interest in horse racing, wish to watch a programme on the sport, especially on an iPhone or an iPad or even a computer when we don’t even watch television anymore?”

It was friendly banter with a friend in marketing, who is a very casual race-goer, and both of us exchanging thoughts and ideas about brands and products and how, so many times, people on “the client side” trip up from either being unable, or refusing, to see the forest for the trees- and not being in touch with the consumer.


When it comes to horse racing, what has it plod along even worse than it’s plodding along right now is navel gazing by those too comfortably numb, and way too set in their ways to be useful, but who are still kept around as they are loyal and obediently trained Yes People- a kinda Corporate Speaking Stepford Wife.


As we talked, he mentioned how he goes to illegal sites like Showbox and Pirate Bay to download every new and old movie and current television series, whereas using a device known as “Jailbreak”, he can crack Apple’s security system to download any app that’s for sale.

Illegal file sharing and downloads in music, we all know about- and the catastrophic affect it’s had on the music industry’s “eco system”.

But now, we’re also seeing huge losses in revenue in the film and television industries through this ability to trawl, and keep rocking in the online world- and where everything is gettable without paying.


Racing clubs- well, most of them- use their content purely to promote the sport to their audience, and not as any new business model.

Wagering is the end game, and all this free content is part of what it takes to achieve this objective.

This leads me to words and terms like “perception”, “image”, “return on investment” and the old “Why Not?” question.


Sponsored racing programmes and having advertising from consumer brands won’t bring in huge revenue, but with access to advertisers’ data bases, and how, creatively speaking, this content can be made inter-active, surely means spreading its reach?

Is this being done?

Perhaps only when ‘live’ broadcasts of races are shown on terrestrial channels who use this content to sell advertising time to consumer products during slots between races and sandwiched in-between paddock parades and the start of a race.

In other words, these television channels are being paid for airtime, and, as a bonus, they have free content for their Sales teams to go out and attract advertisers.

Racing clubs make nothing from any of this advertising revenue, and maybe, they’re fine with it, because this is how it’s always been, so why bother changing this kinda lop-sided status quo?


It’s scarily reminiscent of music companies once gladly handing over expensively produced music videos, EPKs- Electronic Press Kits- and other exclusive content to MTV- for free- as part of “promotion”, and the music channel saying, Thank you very much, packaging all this “good stuff” as “their” programming- and selling it to sponsors for millions.

Were music companies stupid? Like, duh, dude.


As mentioned, at the moment, horse racing content is looked upon as purely promotion to bring the sport to an audience.

The question is what audience, how big is this audience- and, Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does one make an audience garden grow?


In this online-driven world, why isn’t there racing’s equivalent of an ESPN- a subscriber-based global racing channel from where the industry can sing its own version of “We Are The World”?

If this is too ambitious, why don’t racing clubs create their own lifestyle channels where, sure, show the races, but realise that this “new” or “next generation” they so desperately need to attract to keep the sport ticking, ticking, ticking into the future, are, or have been, hardcore gamers, and who have a life beyond track work, paddock parades and talking heads.


This leads to programming- content- that works online and on-course- as even the most hardcore racing fan, or the transfixed punter, do not wish to be a passive viewer anymore.


Whether new or old, racing fans wish to participate in the sport, and which is why, for better or worse, twitter, especially, has given horse racing an added voice.

So, how does one take the inter-activity of this vocal Twitterverse plus all the excitement of Electronic Arts gaming products into the horse racing broadcast medium?


Surely, this can only lead to a wider audience, which means attracting new sponsors, and forcing racing clubs to remove the blinkers and look at revitalising the sport through partnerships with other industries and creating pools of different types of programming for different customer segments as opposed to continuing to flog that one dead horse?


What’s interesting to hear are some outside of the racing world, but experienced content providers, talk about producing horse racing inspired gaming, creative use of the helmetcam during the broadcast of races while acknowledging that the day when races can be viewed in 3-D is just a shot away.


What all this does is heighten the viewing experience that attracts this new generation of racing fans, who can now “ride” with jockeys on the horses they’ve backed, and see, first hand, and through the POV- point of view- of those doing the steering that piloting a horse is more than the obligatory top shot, and side and head-on footage of a race where the only excited person is the race caller.


Racing must be more than a “spectator sport”, and how it’s presented online and on-course, and how it can take everyone on something that’s much, much more than Mr Toad’s Wild Ride, and the creativity and innovation of every theme park ride- in all its many forms- and video game is what’s needed.


After all, action speaks louder than words even if they come from the fertile mind of Jeff Kennett, and those over-reacting to the ramblings of an “outdated model” with almost hypocritical irrelevance.


Hans Ebert

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