PART OF THE FEEL GOOD STORIES
While racing fans in Australia have been caught off-guard with the sport itself caught between a rock and a hard place with the TVN/Sky horse opera that has ended in tears for TVN, the HKJC has an interesting dilemma of its own involving a television station on its hands- and unlike the dramas in Oz, the opportunity to emerge with another type of winner.
Currently, the ‘live’ broadcasts of its races are contracted to the beleaguered terrestrial station ATV- not an “able friend” or strong partner and a station that’s always been a disaster waiting to happen.?This looks certain to happen with the well-documented news that staff have not been paid for months. Despite various last ditch bailout plans being bandied about before the Fat Lady sings on December 31, ATV looks to be the Titanic with Celine Dion about to start singing for those rushing for the lifeboats.
The HKJC’s only option is the only other game in town- terrestrial television channel HKTVB- and light years ahead when it comes to advertising revenue and viewership.
If- and it looks more than likely- the HKJC were to jump ship and take their content to this new broadcast partner, it might be the perfect time to re-look at the positioning and marketing of racing programmes- and push for change.
With ATV, as it is with HKTVB or the various digital television channels, content is provided for free plus payment for the airtime. What’s more, the television stations are allowed to sell advertising time around this horse racing content- but with none of this revenue shared with the content provider. Weird business sense.
On ATV, with its rather sparse group of advertisers, the ‘live’ broadcasts are littered with tacky commercials for everything from abalone restaurants and spas and massage parlours in Macau to hair restorers and other products that don’t exactly help enhance the racing product even on blue chip-sponsored race days.
This is how it’s always been- but it doesn’t need to continue this way. It comes down to bargaining power and reinventing the wheel as things are not working as it could in 2015.
Again, looking at where the music industry went belly up by giving away its content for free to music channels, giving away anything one owns for free sets a dangerous precedent for the day. Rocking in the free world leads nowhere. And this will be something to keep in mind when racing clubs WILL own content other than the ‘live’ racing- racing-influenced content with sponsorship value and of interest to all those newcomers to the sport waiting in the wings and hoping there’s something of interest to them to watch. If not, it will be like being stuck in some box with those with whom these newbies have nothing in common.
Of course, what today’s hardcore and loyal viewers of racing wish to watch are the races, and research shows that in Hong Kong, the audience is on the “mature” side and the children of Dragnet’s Jack Webb with a Just The Facts, M’am, Only The Facts, M’am mentality.
The commercial breaks are there to make bets or else offer sufficient time to walk over to fridge and see if the cupboard is bare, or do a few sit-ups and think it’s part of a fitness regime.
But, let’s not forget that the HKJC has quite an extensive library of content, especially relevant to the broadcast of races on those Happy Wednesday nights- content which is shown as 30-second spots in cinemas.
Why not screen these same spots on Wednesday nights during the various commercial breaks? From what we know, television stations in Hong Kong usually throw in what are called “floating spots” when selling airtime- freebie spots. These spots, relevant to the racing experience can only add more bangs for the bucks and more control to the screening of races as opposed to handing a third party the keys to the Kingdom for them to do with as they please- and which is why now we have Jenny Chapman’s excellent and popular paddock parade observations cut off in mid-sentence for station promos, and broadcasts abruptly cut off for the news.
Having said all this, one size and one format doesn’t fit all. With the new generation of race-goer in mind who has an aversion to being included with the “mature” punting-mad racing fan, the time when Hong Kong- and those cash-rich and novice racing fans in the Motherland- will need a lifestyle-oriented online racing channel with an inter-active element a la YouTube plus, of course, the ‘live’ streaming of races, must be around the corner.
It has to be, otherwise we’ll still be back in the days of Tung Biu and Carlos Wu and Robin Parke and Lawrence Wadey- and which were entertaining days when it came to racing on television.
An online Happy Wednesday channel that is seen as the MTV or YouTube of horse racing? Why not? In fact, bring it on- and see the very different audience- and sponsors it attracts- and its reach through a 24/7 online platform.