Dan Liebman’s post today on Bravo brings up (and over looks) some interesting points. He correctly points out that ESPN “decides for us what is sport and what is not, and what we will be able to watch”, although admittedly this is a construct of media in general.
He puts the icing on the cake by saying:
Apparently, it is more important to find out who is the world’s strongest man than who is the world’s best Thoroughbred.
However, the real missed opportunity in this discussion is main stream marketing or lack of it.
Lower interest in racing can be attributed to several things, among them more choices today for viewers and the fact many core fans are watching on HRTV or TVG, or at a simulcast or off-track betting facility. While HRTV and TVG serve racing’s core, they do little to help cultivate new racing fans. It’s doubtful other, smaller cable networks will either.
I don’t think it matters what channel racing is on as long as it’s marketed, after all, people can’t get interested in what they don’t know about. Look at the success of Jockeys on Animal Planet of all places. Remember how concerned we were with their crazy breakdown-a-palooza promotion? It didn’t matter, the show was success… and it couldn’t have been a success if they had just hoped people would find it. Sound like a familiar approach?
In regards to Bravo, Patrick at Handride argues that positioning racing as cultural phenomenon will be racing’s undoing as far as growth goes. An interesting comment thread ensues that explores the oft debated sport vs. gambling angle. Additionally, the tweet–o–sphere disagreed with him on the cultural phenomenon part. I don’t think it matters one way or another with no mainstream marketing.
Prior to Liebman’s post today, Jason Moran pointed out the World Wide Sports angle here at GbG over the weekend. He makes some great points and in fact he has shared other interesting thoughts about sports coverage here at GbG in the past. The Wide World of Sports idea is particularly interesting because, as several commenters at Bloodhorse point out, racing telecasts that go on for hours are pretty boring. The other side of that coin is what Moran has pointed out before, that NBC knew how to tell stories and fill the seemingly long space between races with interesting, well told stories.
I’m no sports maven, in fact I can emphatically say that I don’t give a shit about sports, but look at the NBA & TNT. Is TNT a sports channel? No, it’s the home of Drama. That’s actually a pretty brilliant hook for any kind of sport or game if you ask me. And guess what, they market it!
I think the bottom line is that, regardless of whether it’s locally or nationally, if we’re really concerned about growth then racing ought to start marketing itself to more than the existing fan base.