Justify and TV Coverage of Horse Racing

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I meant to write a post about 2018 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner AND Triple Crown contender Justify, let alone tell you where and when you can to watch the Belmont Stakes on TV.

But I veered off into a tangent about racing coverage on TV, inspired by Justify’s shot at history.

It all started with a link to an article my husband “MacGuyver” sent me.

The Monsoon Triple Crown?

Jeepers. I hope not. I hope the weather on Belmont Stakes day is clear and not hot.

Anyway, you may know, I used to work in TV sports coverage and MacGuyver still does. He sent me this perhaps too-geeky-for-thee article about a new TV camera used for coverage of the race, in an industry magazine called TV Technology.

“The BatCam” may be why Larry Collmus was able to see the start of The Preakness through the Jack the Ripper movie-worthy fog draping Pimlico. This tweet suggests so:

Derby and Preakness Coverage

I didn’t review Derby TV coverage as I have during previous years. Over social media, I saw a lot of kvetching about so much repetition of pre-recorded packages, let alone the gushing over fashion and celebs.

A couple of years ago, NBC would air a background story video in the undercard coverage. They’d also employ that video as a “tease” ending with the tagline: “For more of the story, tune in for our (main race) coverage on NBC.” Then, they’d air an expanded video with the extra footage. No more.

I suspect why the network does it: horse racing is not the money-printing machine pro football, soccer, and baseball are, so fewer resources are is invested considering the bulk of hours we expect them to devote to it.

The U.S. networks only want to devote a certain amount of time to horse racing. They’re gonna focus on the big money and lifestyle: celebs, parties, and fashion. And rightfully so – I mean, think about it. Most people just look for the best horse racing tips, place a bet, watch their horse win and that’s it – no more horse racing for a couple of weeks/months. The timespan between betting/watching and repeating that activity is often a long period of time.

But those of us who still love TV coverage should realize that could change. The steps are already being taken:

  • This year, TV coverage of the Black-Eyed Susan day dumped out before the feature race on the card.
  • The video background packages featured only the Preakness runners, especially the big names.
  • Also, the Kentucky Derby post position draw aired live on Facebook, not even cable.

An irony is, the network with multiple cable channels it utilizes for Olympic coverage didn’t use that option for even the Kentucky Derby.

But things aren’t looking so optimistic.

Another Numbers Game

This year’s ratings for the Kentucky Derby dipped, thanks to a competing live event, an NBA playoff between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers, according to the Paulick Report.

When a pro team sports playoff event doesn’t compete with the Derby, the numbers are better.

Historically, if there’s a horse race Americans will watch, it’s the Kentucky Derby. The ratings for the Preakness Stakes dip, but go up again for the Belmont if a Triple Crown is on the line.

That article in the Paulick Report also said the audience numbers went up only in time for the race itself.

The New Player on American TV Racing

In the past couple of years, we lost some hours of horse racing coverage of the Derby preps for the live airing of the Royal Ascot races.

The sad truth is, I really like the British coverage of racing. Lots about the horses, not just the big names at the barn but also the “little people” who help make the horse a winner.

The handicapping material we focus so much on over here tells less about the rags-to-riches-or-monentary-fame story that horse racing provides than a chat with the grooms, the assistant trainers, the hot walkers, and the small-time owners going ga-ga at finally being at The Show.

And then there’s the British Royal Family arrival procession. If the newlyweds join Grandma this year, then the numbers should be pretty good.

If anything that happened this year has been the stuff of dreams, it was the Royal Wedding.

So, is the American dream making money on bets throughout the day or going all-out for their Big Dreams?

This year’s Belmont Stakes is another shot at history.

2018 Belmont Stakes TV coverage

All times are Eastern Daylight Time.

Friday, June 8, 5 – 6 pm – NBC Sports Network (cable)

Saturday, June 9, 2 – 4 pm – NBC Sports Network (cable)

Saturday, June 9, 4 – 7:30 pm – NBC (your local NBC station)

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