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TVN: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

Blinkers on Shahad (Photo: Paul Barkley/LookPro)
Roar Guru
4th March, 2015
15

Albert Einstein’s famous observation regarding the true meaning of insanity provides remarkable relevance to the current TVN predicament and what, if anything, is going to replace the racing industry’s visual broadcaster.

Let’s have a quick overview at TVN’s decade journey – looking at the emergence of TVN.

I took a look at what TVN achieved and what still must be accomplished in part one of a three part series.

TVN was given birth from a business dispute involving the metropolitan race-clubs of NSW and Victoria and SkyRacing.

Not being an insider to the full story, the cause of this very public dispute was that the race-clubs wanted a bigger slice of the payTV pie. So they dressed up this notion with a more ethical view that horse-racing required a dedicated TV channel for the benefit of racing. Noble.

Just as an aside and call me sentimental if you will, but doesn’t the current squabble between racing’s two main players, Racing NSW and Racing Victoria, have a familiar ring to that squabble from so long, long ago?

What can I say Albert … they didn’t call you Einstein for nothing!

TVN’s hurried development caused much excitement in the industry that was devastated by NSW and Victoria’s decision to remove their metro racing-vision from SkyRacing.

It is really scary when you have people in control of such a huge industry willing to shipwreck it, and for what?

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So, before anyone knew it, TVN was on the air. Racing’s flagship was broadcasting to those who could pay for it.

TVN’s business model in its first incarnation was as a Foxtel payTV subscription channel for $5/month. That’s right charging $5 on top of the Foxtel general monthly subscription. Yes, they were expecting the horse-racing enthusiast to pay twice to bet. There’s a plan.

This TVN money earner didn’t even last the length of the free trial. It became a Foxtel freebie within a couple of months.

The next major TVN venture was the establishment (with Bigpond/Foxtel) of an online presence called ‘Racing Network’. And once again they figured the punt crazy public would flood to it paying a subscription fee ($20/month). Although, if potential viewers were lucky enough to be a Bigpond subscriber, no subscription fee.

Can these racing management people pick a winner from a historical form-guide or what?

Speaking of form-guides, the next go-to strategy for TVN was to buy two of the three major form-guides; Winning Post and Best Bets.

This seemed like a great idea, making sure that at least in the short-term, while the world transitioned to the digital-age, a core requirement of the industry was always available for newsprint oldies. Then they basically did nothing with them.

To make their online presence more attractive, they value-added to Racing Network, by including archived replays on-demand – and for the poor unfortunates that wanted to check a horse’s past run but weren’t a subscriber: ‘tough’!

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After all, casinos don’t need form-guides.

Call me feeble-minded but it seems to me people who are interested in all sorts of live-race betting would watch SkyRacing and Foxtel. People who enjoy horse-racing only would probably watch TVN, if they could.

Did anybody bother to ring the British Racing Authority and ask what happened to turnover when BBC4 lost the public race-broadcasting to UK Racing, a subscription service? You might be able to guess.

But before we enter our brave new world of horse-racing, something more essential needs to take place. Something that is at the core of every successful enterprise. An identity. Yes, I could hear the audible gasps of amazement.

Why haven’t they established an entrenched racing-industry identity? Simply, answering the question – what is ‘horse-racing’?

You would think that horse-racing supporters are ashamed of something. Before ‘any-Body’ can plan the future they need to know who they are; something the racing industry has been very confused about over the last 20 years.

Here are just a few clarifying ‘identity’ ideas about the racing industy:

  • We are animal lovers.
  • We love the excitement of competition.
  • We love the commitment our industry requires of us.
  • We revere our equine champions.
  • We love our industry history.
  • We never confuse horse-racing with betting, even though they live under the same roof and betting is nothing to be ashamed of.
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This is just a handful of factors. I’m sure many others will spring to mind.

If there is an industry truth, it is that racing’s industry income is primarily derived from betting turnover.

So what should the industry do?

The first thing I would have thought was to make a huge banner of Albert Einstein’s observation:‘Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’, and hang it on the boardroom walls of these monolith racing bodies.

Next, they should make everybody concerned with the well-being of the racing industry recite the Einstein mantra every morning on arriving at work. You know, like the rah-rah Amway sellers subject themselves to at sales meetings.

Who knows maybe after a decade or two, the importance of this universal understanding might register. I agree, two decades is a little quick for the way our industry usually changes but an effort should be made.

We might see progress. The eternal optimist I am.

Stay tuned for a part three.

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