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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Run the Power Sweep!

- In a story that is filled with tremendous promise, but with some question marks as well, the Thoroughbred Times is reporting that ESPN will broadcast live the 2007 Meadowlands Breeders Cup Stakes (G2) on espn2 during halftime of its ESPN Monday Night Football game. The telecast would be promoted on the network during the preceding week and during the game.

That would be an amazing opportunity for the sport, but only if the NTRA does what it's supposed to be doing. People aren't just going to automatically switch over to ESPN2 to watch some relatively meaningless horse race just because Kenny Mayne is telling them to (in fact, his increasingly smug manner could actually dissuade them). The NTRA should be working on developing a promotion that will make people not want to miss it. Forget the mystery vouchers for people who are already fans, they should send word of a contest to all of those on their 'potential fans likely to be watching the NFL' marketing list - they certainly have one of those, don't they? (and if they don't, they should be asking ESPN for theirs) - offering attractive prizes to those who, for example, log on to and pick the first three horses in order. That will get people not only watching, but get them rooting. And for some of them, screaming and yelling and jumping up and down.

And that could make them fans far more effectively than the celebrities on their lame Who Do You Like Today ads.

However, some of this would require some tinkering, and indeed, the article said that the Meadowlands had no comment. For one thing, the Meadowlands doesn't race on Monday nights. By moving the race to that night, they would be taking the marquee race for their thoroughbred meet and putting it on a night on which nobody will be there. The attendance for their thoroughbred meet is depressing to start with, and the atmosphere for their big race on a Monday night would be downright funereal. (One would hope that this wasn't scheduled for the night of a Giants road game!)

The plan would also require some flexibility on the part of the racetrack. Halftimes can come anywhere from around an hour and fifteen minutes, to almost two hours after kickoff time, depending on the nature of the game. So the Meadowlands would have to be prepared to hold up post time for a half hour or more.

But to me, these are things that the NTRA should be working on with the racetrack to make it so. You're talking about an opportunity to not only market the game to millions of non-fans, many of whom are wagering on the football game and are therefore potential customers, but to get them directly involved, if even for one race! How many other sports are able to do that?

So, Go Baby Go, NTRA. Pick up the ball on this one and run the power sweep.


Mike said...

If this is a success, do you think it is likely that they could later forget the "flip to ESPN2" and just run it on ESPN during halftime?

We're talking about 5-10 minutes of air time if you go over to the race during the call to post and hang out for the payouts.

Good call on the NTRA Pick Contest...

Walter said...

Hard to see ESPN mixing coverage of horse racing and "real" sports. I remember a couple of years ago when i tuned in to catch Afleet Alex in the Hopeful. The hour-long horsey broadcast was cut down to 15 minutes because a LITTLE LEAGUE game ran long. So they missed live of the two races they were supposed to show, but at least they had them on tape, and there were still 15 minutes left, right? Well, apparently that was only enough time to show the STRETCH RUN of the two races. Unbelievable. Maybe now that ESPN is signed on cover the Breeders Cup, they'll show horse racing a little more respect. But if they decide to show a race during halftime of Monday Night Football, don't be surprised if they cut away in mid-race for a sideline interview with one of the coaches.

Walter said...

Almost forgot. Discreet Cat is entered going 7 furlongs on Friday.

Steve D said...

Honestly, Alan...I am out of faith in the NTRA. They have failed in their mission, with the sole exception of tv coverage and their legislative work. Well you know what, that's what a media agency and a lobbying agency are for. So let's strip them of all duties but for the two where they have demonstrably succeeded.

What someone needs to establish is an organization who has clear the priority list for fixing racing:

1. A better gambling environment (lower takeout, less racing, full fields, coordinated post times) for simulcast/home players. Go where your bread is buttered first.

2. A better entertainment experience at the track (free admission, free programs, friendlier staff, better food, and less REO Speedwagon reunion tour).

3. An embrace of the complexities of racing and why that makes racing great. They should license the first chapter Andy Beyer's Picking Winners, the great apologetic work for inveterate horseplayers. I study it as a daily devotional (along with other more eternal materials).

People (especially in the TBA) claim that following the national racing scene is too difficult. This is similar to the crusade about 10 years ago to create "simpler, user friendly" past perfrormances in alternative programs...this makes no sense to me. The things that appeal to the audience of the future are excruciatingly complex! I think of MMOG (massive multiplayer online gaming).

As this relates to racing on MNF, I simply hope those that produce racing programs take note of NFL commentators discussing intricate and complex defensive schemes, audibles, hot-routes, etc and attracting the largest overall audience in the world. So instead of Kenny Mayne making wisecracks and trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator, maybe they'll embrace handicapping as an intellectually worthy pursuit. (Maybe they could start reading your blog, Alan)

Sorry for the rant.