There is a genuine discontent seemingly amongst punters towards the coverage of horse racing media. A lot of punters have taken to social media to voice this discontent. Twitter has clearly become the preferred medium for punters to voice their opinion.
The issue at the moment seems to be that it is a very one sided war and punters are taking matters into their own hands. Increasing amounts of free podcasts and programs available on social media are feeding the need for serious punters. Mainstream horse racing media, bar a few exceptions seem to be stuck in a time warp and in the process are becoming in danger of being irrelevant.
The problem I have with mainstream horse racing media broadcasters
I have no personal alliance to anyone through either social media or horse racing media. I know for a fact that I rarely pay any attention anymore to mainstream horse racing media coverage or programs. That is concerning for the industry. If someone who loves the sport as much as I do finds listening to the people in charge of broadcasting it and giving the sport exposure irrelevant; how is the sport going to attract new participants and punters?
Racing.com and Sky Channel
Racing.com and Sky Channel are the two main broadcasters of horse racing in Australia. Sky Channel has clearly gone down a wall to wall approach. They have a heavy allegiance to the TAB and their 526 channel. The channel is basically about getting as much content for people to gamble on as possible. The Thoroughbred Central channel is their premium channel designed to give greater insight to punters. However with the exception of Ron Dufficy, very few of their presenters offer genuine insights into form. The mounting yard reports from their experts generally feature empty words such as “she’s a nice big mare” or “he is really looking good in his coat”. Play that on repeat and you have your mounting yard report. What does this actually even mean?
Racing.com coverage on race day is better, but only marginally. The pawning of themselves out to the Corporate Bookmaking industry means a lot of their coverage is annoyingly overloaded with crosses to a CrownBet or SportsBet representative. With the likes of Ben Asgari and David Gately though they do have astute form analysts who do give great insight, I just feel they can be given a greater platform to do so.
Content is the key
I think their biggest issue is content making the channel relevant throughout the week. Having five replays of a Sha Tin meeting on Sunday in nine hours when there is no replays of Flemington on Saturday just doesn’t make sense. Certainly with shows like Before The First, feels as if they may be headed in the right direction and I am hopeful that they can really show the way in the wake of Sky’s shortcomings.
Horse racing on Twitter – how it compares
When you compare that to the information freely available on Twitter through the likes of Marc Lambourne and Glenn Pollett on the Racing Rant (@RantRacing), Adam Blencowe (@NoverreMan) who tweets regularly and is proud founder of #TheGreatGame hashtag and Dan Kelly (@winbetdan), Darren Potter and Racetrack Ralphy (@rtralphy) through their YouTube show Punting Melbourne style you wonder what type of quality control there is at Sky Channel. Is it just a case of everyone sitting back and being happy with themselves in cushy jobs?
Where to from here?
A Monday night review program I feel could be a real winner as they can really focus on the Melbourne meeting from Saturday and go that extra mile in terms of reviewing a race. Punter engagement is the biggest area the racing media can improve in my opinion. I used to love listening to RSN Carnival on a Saturday afternoon with Vince Accardi and Racetrack Ralphy as they had a knack of making the punter feel a part of the broadcast. They engaged through Twitter, answered questions and form queries and for me that was really important.
Another great example of punter engagement at the moment is Brad Davidson who works for the Daily Telegraph in Sydney. Brad tweets out midweek previews for races throughout the day on Twitter along with betting strategies and has a real following from punters who punt with him on the day. A lot of these meetings are in country NSW where a lot of people wouldn’t normally consider punting. His promotion of those meetings through his insights and interaction though will surely drive an increase in turnover on those meetings.
Brad does a brilliant job. On the flip side Melbourne’s Herald Sun’s chief horse racing journalist has little to no engagement with punters on Twitter. Now whether this is people higher in charge dictating these behaviours I am not sure, but what I do see is one journalist making an effort to educate and involve punters and another doing nothing at all. The contrast is stark.
Final thoughts on horse racing media
This is a great sport and my point of contention is that it deserves far better mainstream coverage than what it is getting at the moment. It can be so much better. With shows like the Racing Rant and Punting Melbourne Style becoming more and more popular and so easily accessible my concern is that mainstream racing media will become irrelevant and that in turn will harm the sport’s ability to attract new customers and participants which is what it needs to survive and remain relevant itself.
I am not sure whether it is too far gone, but I am hopeful that there can be some kind of reform into how racing is covered in this country. It is a great sport with great tradition and the challenge of finding a winner provides a thrill that deserves to be shared with many. Surely the horse racing media has a part to play in that and it is time it did.