Power Cap

Power cap- existential handicapping

14 April 2009

TVG And HRTV Are Underrated

For the last few weeks there has been almost a weekly announcement that some racing telecast on ESPN has been canceled. First it was the Kentucky Oaks and now it is the Preakness undercard. The summer races from Saratoga have migrated to MSG+, which is a regional sports channel and not a way to slowly terminate your mother in-law by Sesame Chicken. With coverage declining racing should stop trying to make juice with an unattainable seasonal fruit and make lemonade with the abundance of lemons it holds. TVG and HRTV both do fine work, they both present the races professionally and frankly better than ESPN has ever presented the races.

The first thing I notice when I watch an ESPN racing broadcast are the camera angles. Racing is the rare broadcast subject where more is less. The explosive action of the thoroughbreds running is concentrated and explosive. One static camera angle will suffice to ensure that we are able to keep track of the action. ESPN usually has some MTV style/short attention span camera angle changes every five seconds. This type of camera work may work for pimple faced music videos watchers or for bored ball fans in need of mental masturbation. Knowledgeable race fans need a static shot so we can maintain constant knowledge of where our horses are in the pack. ESPN has consistently failed in this regard and has never acquired the basic knowledge on how to present racing. You finally a snag a glimpse of your deep closer making a move on the pan shot and then they jump to the head-on which is quickly followed by the blimp shot, by then you don't know who is who and what is happening.

Another failure of ESPN in their presenting of horse racing is the neglect of the pretty pony crowd. Yes there are two very polarized groups that follow racing. The horse players and the pretty pony people. We have almost nothing in-common but the love of the horses and the love of the game. Both groups need to be catered to. Until ESPN started presenting racing I never realized how great of a job NBC did for the pretty pony people. NBC always had featured an underdog dramatic story and presented a tear jerker that pulled at a viewers heart strings. Maybe it was the influence of Bob Costos but NBC did a suburb job in this regard. ESPN has neglected these stories. Is it any wonder that the Nielson ratings for the Breeders Cup have crashed since ESPN took coverage in 2007?

While Pretty pony People may be feeling neglected by ESPN coverage, horseplayers have some gripes too. Why has the national pick 4 been scrapped? That was a bet many fans looked forward to, in fact I still miss it and hope it is salvaged sometime soon. This was such an exciting wager, as it combined the appeal of four stakes races with live television coverage. It was a great bet to syndicate with your friends. For a modest investment a group could have a live ticket to destination scoreville. Anyone that has hit a large pick 4 knows that it is much more exciting than the long term fantasy games in vogue with ballfans. In addition to the excitement it provided, the pick 4 validated the TV coverage and provided a play along game that pulled viewers directly in to the action. It was truly a vital part of the coverage, an advertisement for the game of handicapping and it should be reintroduced ASAP.

With the ESPN coverage being scrapped racing should value the two dedicated channels it already has in operation 365 days a year. The daily coverage provided by TVG and HRTV exceeds the quality of the rare ESPN stakes broadcasts. Before TVG was launched ten years ago racing was on TV for at most twelve hours a year, now it receives coverage 15 hours a day on two channels. This is a tremendous asset and one of the positive aspects of horse racing in America 2009. This positive aspect should be celebrated and invested in. Both of these channels are expert presenters of the game. If ESPN can not make a go of racing, let HRTV and TVG take over the stewardship of the media promotion efforts. Invest in these two channels and not coverage on Bravo, who are sure to be clueless on presenting racing If the two dedicated channels are lost it will takes years to recover the knowledge that these two channels hold.


Gene Kershner said...

The mother-in-law Sesame Chicken line is a keeper.

I wonder how HRTV/TVG were able to pierce the FiOS package, but not most other cable networks...if they did, I totally agree with you.

Thanks for the link.

Vigors said...

When the Fios sales person knocked on our front door over two years ago the first question I asked him was, "Do you carry HRTV?" He had no clue what I was talking about. But a search through his channel guide found both it and TVG as part of the additional sports package channel charge. My next question was when can it be installed. When it comes to HRTV you will find none better in covering the "pretty pony" stories and their commentators are the best!

Anonymous said...

I agree with you for the most part, but let's be honest HRTV still boarders on being public access television. Thank God TVG got Keeneland back between the works and their day-to-day onsite coverage it's as good as it gets. Picture, content, graphics, feature, etc. blows away the visually impared HRTV

Anonymous said...

I agree totally but I subscribe to TVG and can't get HRTV, so I can't watch the undercard or bet on any Churchill races, although I understand TVG was offerred the same chance to carry Churchill as all of the other ADWs and declined-frustrating!