Betting on horse racing: Remote production and distribution brings new opportunity

February 3, 2021 by Richard Rosa, Vice President Business Development, Wagering & Simulcasting
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In 2020, horse race tracks made an abrupt — and eye-opening — pivot in how they produced and distributed races. Now early adopters in the industry may take those learnings to raise their brand equity and broaden their presence in the expanding sports media and wagering landscape.

In the last year, horse racing had to try new techniques to maintain revenue and produce under difficult conditions — and it passed the test with flying colors, jumping ahead of traditional major league sports. Remote video production workflows enabled race tracks to broadcast events with limited on-site gear and crew. Horse racing media companies realized the commercial potential and moved their coverage to major networks like Fox and NBC, giving the industry exposure to a larger viewing and wagering audience.

The changing production and distribution models, which will accelerate growth in online horse race betting, will reshape the industry.

The changing production and distribution models, which will accelerate growth in online horse race betting, will reshape the industry.

Horse racing turns to remote production and online wagering

Horse racing led the broader sports industry’s transition to remote production. Race tracks adapted quickly to this model, limiting on-site personnel to just essential crew, and leveraging remote teams and centralized facilities to deliver excellent viewing experiences. The remote production model provided the flexibility races needed to reach a bigger audience while saving money. Remote productions cost about 20% less than traditional on-premise productions.

Reliable connectivity was critical in getting the broadcast signal from the race tracks to a remote location. IP transport and managed transmission networks overcame internet infrastructure limitations and ensured race tracks delivered live broadcast-quality video to all destinations.

With audiences unable to attend and wager in person, race tracks suffered revenue losses. To fill this hole, the industry shifted its focus to capturing some of the online gambling spend, which is set to exceed $160 billion by 2026.

Reliable connectivity was critical in getting the broadcast signal from the race tracks to a remote location.
Horse racing tracks


New production models allow horse racing to raise its profile and capture revenue

Restoring attendance and resuming the on-track wagering revenue are priorities for race tracks. With more sports increasingly returning to action, horse racing will face more competition but should move quickly to take advantage of the momentum it gained within the wagering audience.

On the production side, horse racing demonstrated innovation and resilience — and proved it could achieve bigger ambitions. The fast and smooth transition to remote production set an example for the sports industry and demonstrated the right tech solutions could not only help meet new challenges but can also unlock new potential.

High production values are key to broadening audiences, capturing more viewers — and raising your profile with betting platforms. However, existing production models create challenges for broadcast-quality production. Many race tracks still rely on standard definition (SD), which translates to a poor viewing experience and less interest from cable networks. The horse racing industry needs to make a concerted effort to transition to high definition (HD) — and later to 4K — to compete for mindshare and wagering revenue with other sports.

Another roadblock stands in the way: The sport follows a model of closed network distribution dependent on linear simulcast programs, limiting its distribution in emerging markets. The industry can channelize its distribution to make it available at many more destinations to build on the momentum created during the pandemic to increase revenues. Free networks like Roku and Pluto TV provide a great platform for horse racing to open up distribution and reach a bigger audience.

There’s a big opportunity for horse racing to capture a share of wagering from other sports if race tracks can improve integration with online wagering platforms and national broadcasters to attract more sports betters. One key differentiator for horse races? The two-minute race time is attractive to sports betters, who can wager on an average of 15 races in the same time of a traditional sports game.

On the production side, horse racing demonstrated innovation and resilience — and proved it could achieve bigger ambitions. The fast and smooth transition to remote production set an example for the sports industry and demonstrated the right tech solutions could not only help meet new challenges but can also unlock new potential.

Increasing the odds for success

The past year has been both challenging and exciting for horse racing. The industry pivoted quickly and championed its potential, growing its audience and equity. Horse racing needs to promote its value proposition as an always-on, quick-turnaround sport to improve its sports entertainment and wagering market position.

Cloud infrastructure and remote production have demonstrated the possibilities technology can open up for an industry lagging in digital transformation. The distribution model needs to change fundamentally to appeal to a swiftly changing sports and wagering landscape. While SD broadcast quality feeds might be sufficient for a limited audience that has traditionally watched horse racing on a small scale, it won’t cut it for the broader and more diverse audience the industry aims to attract. Horse racing is in front of its biggest bet — to win the production and distribution race. Cloud and IP-driven solutions make a low-cost transition possible so no race track will be left behind.

Horse racing needs to promote its value proposition as an always-on, quick-turnaround sport to improve its sports entertainment and wagering market position.
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