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Time for TV Broadcasts to Step Up

Blame Zenyatta 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

There are some fine folks in the horse racing television world – knowledgeable, fun and even insightful. But I have at least five ways to improve on such broadcasts, and since I’m just a lowly old blogger/videographer that television executives haven't heard of, I thought I'd toss my two cents into an open forum. Who knows maybe just one idea will make its way up the broadcast ladder? As a new player Fox1 has the best opportunity to bring some innovation to this 150-year-old game. So without further ado here's what I think can be done...

 

1) This is 2013 and I have a four-year-old computer with a video camera in it about the size of nail head…put a small, wide angle robotic camera on every finish line. Give people what they want sooner and everybody wants to know who the winner is right after a race. A camera on the finish line will help figure that out for fans at lightning speed while stewards fumble around.

 
2) On the same subject, put some of those small, wide-angle cameras in select jockey helmets – first a few atop the morning line choices and some on a couple of long shots. Who knows maybe we’ll get lucky and actually “see” what it’s like for a jockey to push her horse through a closing hole along the rail in an all out effort to win. I bet it wouldn’t take more than two races to see something incredible up close and personal.

 
3) While we’re on the subject of cameras, build a robotic camera to travel under the rail along both the backstretch and homestretch. While football figured out how to put a camera in the air, an on-the-rail camera should be able to travel 30 mph for a short time to capture the Thoroughbreds in action through both straightaways.

 
4) Enough of the sappy human-interest stories that fill the horse racing airways, teach people how to bet! Betting is legal in 29 states and most people watching wouldn’t mind some help. Strategy, types of bets, takeout rates, betting angles, etc. It’s not that hard and you can actually have fun with it while not trying to manufacture a tear through some stiff, clichéd narrative. 

 

5) There’s plenty of good stories to tell in horse racing, if you let a producer comb the backside a few mornings a week. Horsemen, owners and jockeys are willing to talk, if only asked some decent questions. Betting, training, riding and trying to win in horse racing can make for the ultimate reality show in which luck plays a role front and center.

 

I know there are challenges, both technological and human, that need to be overcome to make these changes happen. Wouldn't just one change make the watching and betting more enjoyable? What do you think?
 

 

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Older Comments about Time for TV Broadcasts to Step Up...

The tracks need to update their cameras to high res. Almost impossible to seperate the horse duriing close races.
TV is going to HAVE to follow the standard split screen upper pan lower pan coordinated shots or else the CROWD will lose interest in losing their horse. EVEN when you KNOW what to look fro this constand view change makes you lose continuity. Fall back to a transferable standard that all race trackers already KNOW.
Outlaw the Blimp Cam shot!
The biggest gripe I have about video coverage is that when a horse wins by more than 5 lengths, you never get to see the rest of the pack until they cross the finish line. As a vertical exotics bettor in two words "it sucks." Not even a commententator will mention anything but what a great race the winner ran, while in the meantime were trying to figure out where our other horses are. Yes, of course the handle is everything, but helping the crowd select winners does nothing but enhance the handle, as the bettor ultimately pays the price in the form of lower payouts as the "take" remains the same.
I see what your saying, a few yr.s ago I saw a clip with Mike Smith in a work out on Zen,and it was done from a helmet cam and it worked very well.
I agree on all your points. I would also like to see more of the horse in the walking ring instead fot he talking heads.
handle. he is right. THAT is the number that floats by the press box daily
talking heads never Adress what is always left out:WAGER creation
While I totally sympathiz with your point of view, I am relistic enough, having spend 30-some years in and around horse racing, to realize that horse racing broadcasters are not in it to help the bettor in any way. Their job is to get people to bet. All of the "advice" and small talk is geared to getting bettors to shove more money "through the windows". This is the Sport of Kings and it is designed for the benefit of a small percentage of the very rich owners and trainers. Even the DRF which "has everything you need to know" is design more to confuse than to enlighten. What is important in the industry is the handle. No handle, no track. No track, no racing. The bettors support this like beggars, because it's the only game in town. You want to win? Sift and filter your way through the BS, because you wil never be able to count on the media or anyone else to lend any assistance to your efforts to win.
Justorace,based on your love of TVG(lol) i am now almost happy it is not part of my cable package.I have seen the showa when i go to friends homes.The thing that cracks me up alot is the following.The commentators on at the time,talk jibberish for the 20 minute time span.As the horses are loading in the gate,they give the in home fans their selections.To me it os irrelevant,i do not listen to their picks.But i am sure there are many fans who would appreciate a heads up,maybe with 10 minutes or so to post.This would give them ample time to place a wager.Like i said,i do not watch this on a steady basis,so i cannot for certainty say if this is the rule or the exception.Seems like ESPN with sports telecasts.It is no longer about the product.It is the self promotion of the commentators.
Tony...
I found a solution to skipping TVG altogether ... and the BONUS of seeing most primary tracks that I am interested in! Go to 'Horse Races NOW' from The Jockey Club Technology Services team, powered by Equibase. I am not promoting the app but just letting the audience know of an excellent free app that answers a lot of the points brought up here _ getting TVG out of the picture and moving forward with much better information! Regarding the points suggested, in favor of 1), 4) & 5); have seen 2 in action currently (NBC); cautions on point 3 regarding due to accident saftey risk mitigation and audience 'protection' from viewing accidents from a close in, upfront positon that is not normally the issue from the grandstand.
I agree williamkelley. I believe Hoosier Downs just went with trakus making it one if the few harness tracks with it. I wonder if with the new grandstand at the Meadowlands, Gural with have this.
With the largest customer base for all tracks watching and betting at home why hasn't all tracks gone to a Trakus or something similar. Displaying horses positions during a race. Even customers at track watch on big screen and really can't pick out their horse during a race.
I love the camera ideas. I like the human interest stories, but would love to see more about the individual horses. What ever happened to pedigrees of the entries? Long time followers enjoy watching sons and daughters and "grands" of their favorites.
I cant stand the human-interest stories either, but I think they need to bring in those fans. All the coverage of Rosie made my wife, mom, and many more uninterested people follow her every step of the way.
At least the guy with Fox1 Sports is a horse racing enthusiast, and it was brought out in an interview with him that I saw. He is aware of what NBC is doing, and I predict, he will try to expand their coverage in ways to differentiate themselves from that network. Competition is good in situations like this. Also, I believe it is the intent of Fox1 to concentrate on the "older" horse category, the handicap races, and not hit the same notes as NBC with the Triple Crown coverage. So, in that respect, the addition of Fox to the lineup should widen the areas of the sport. Also, the handicap races attract horses that have been around more than 1 season and that people can get to know, more so than the 3 yr old bunch whose ranks every year seem to be thinned out by the end of the season. Bottom line, glad to see more and not less tv coverage.
Mike,i am not being critical of how NBC handles it.They can say whatever the politically correct statement is.They have smart buisiness people running there operations.The bottom line is that they could care less about the racing industry.Their #1 concern and responsibility,is rightfully to their sponsors.I understand this.If in their shoes i would do the same thing.They know that the avid horselover,if home at the time will be tuned in regardless.They are looking to target the secondary market.The fact they do not concentrate on the actual racing issues and have to revert to gimmicks to attract them. This is proof that they do not have confidence in racing itself to attract them. After all,Ratings is just another word for advertising dollars.They can do both,the thing that irks me is the snub to the people they take for granted.
There was an interview with Bob Neumeier of NBC on the OTB network Travers weekend and he talked about why NBC focuses on the human interest story and not on betting. It is basically because they believe that is what their viewers want. I don't want to start anything here but he said that the majority of the viewers are women and that they are more interested in stories than betting. He made it clear that for NBC anyway this was not going to change.
some1 please stop T.V.G they have become a joke we watch horse racing n what is going on and being done not side shows.....

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