One of the biggest complaints about NBC’s coverage of the Triple Crown is that it does not focus enough on gambling.
Fox Sports plans to address that concern when it begins broadcasting the Belmont Stakes in 2023, according to Fox Sports executive vice president Mike Mulvihill, who serves as head of strategy and analytics for the network.
“The lifeblood of this industry is the horseplayers,” Mulvihil said Tuesday during the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program Symposium on Racing. “We want Fox to be the destination of choice for horseplayers.
“I am very proud of the focus Fox Sports’ coverage has on playing the races. Horse racing is providing the blueprint for the sports world to follow every day. In 2023, to go even further, we’ll produce a companion show to the Belmont Stakes on Fox with a companion show on Fox Sports 1 that will be designed for ‘regular’ horseplayers and dive deeper into handicapping than any show has ever before.”
Mulvihill leaned on his role as head of strategy and analytics for Fox Sports to share an optimistic view of racing’s future in the live sports landscape. He said that in 2001, 14 of the top 100 shows were live events. In 2011, it was 47 of the top 100. In 2021, it was 95 of the top 100.
“Commercials in live sports can reach audiences in a way that streaming programs cannot,” Mulvihil said. “That’s why Fox spent billions on the NFL into the '30s and why the Derby and Belmont is so valuable to NBC and Fox.
“Horse racing must lean into that dynamic. Our business is to get fans to have bonding experiences they care about. It can happen at Saratoga, at a party watching the Derby on TV, or sharing a Pick 6 ticket, but it’s all about that live experience.”
Mulvihill listed a trio of pillars to the racing experience: it’s a poem, a puzzle and a party.
“The poem is the magnificence of the Thoroughbred athlete,” he said. “It’s what makes this more than a modern roulette wheel. It can be difficult marketing an individual horse who makes only six career starts, but we can lean into marketing horses.
“The puzzle is smart, sophisticated people who are no different than those trying to solve the New York Times crossword puzzle. It’s an engaging, humbling and sometimes financially rewarding game. Fox Sports celebrates the skill and science of playing the races.
“The party is a big day at the track. When it’s the right day with the right people, anything can happen. Many live sports now are overpriced, overproduced, and over-manicured. Spontaneity has been sacrificed, but horse racing stands out. You can pay a modest admission, wear a ridiculous hat, and leave with more money.
“When the poem, puzzle and party are balanced, there’s nothing like it, and we try to capture that on television.”