How bad is the state of US horseracing? They’ve decided their salvation lies in reality TV. The Jockey Club, the primo North American organization dedicated to the improvement of thoroughbred breeding and racing, has decided to spend $10m over the next five years trying to (a) convince TV execs to boost coverage of racing meets, and (b) create a TV series that may or not be reality-based (discussions are still at the embryonic, ‘throw horseshit at the wall and see what sticks’ stage).
This and other recommendations – fewer races, less overlap of major races, more stringent doping rules, etc. – were drawn up in a report by consultants McKinsey and Company, and presented at the annual Jockey Club Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing. The report made it clear that the racing industry had little time to lose if it wanted to arrest racing’s decline. Over the past decade, track attendance is down 30% and betting is off 37%. Only 46% of current racing fans would recommend their sport to others, a far cry from fans of baseball (82%), football (81%) and poker (55%).
The report stressed the importance of getting more television exposure, seen as crucial to reversing the sport’s annual 3% attrition rate. However, the consultants stressed that any new attempts to boost racing’s appeal would need to be “different from previous efforts” and focused on “new fan segments,” such as adult females and senior citizens who like to gamble.
There are also plans to create and promote a ‘free play’ site, sort of a .net poker site for horse racing, in which neophyte and/or timid punters will be able to wager play money on real races. Apparently, punters in focus groups had complained that horse wagering was “too complex and intimidating.” There will also be a racing-themed social networking game developed to complement the TV series and the website.
If the Jockey Club’s looking for suggestions, we figure the cast of Jersey Shore will be looking for work following their Italian sojourn. Jwoww can claim that the J stands for ‘jockey’ and Snooki’s half-equine to begin with… I smell synergy! Or is that horse shit?