As the consumption of sports betting in the UK continues to develop, racing has retained its status as a stalwart amongst the nation’s most cherished betting events.
Nonetheless, in 2018 the importance of the continued evolution of racing can’t be understated, SBC spoke to the Commercial Manager at broadcaster At The Races, Joe Andrews about why the future remains positive for racing and how the broadcaster continues to reach new audiences.
SBC: At The Races shows an extensive amount of racing to a UK and Irish audience. Can you detail some of the key factors in ensuring that you maximise the viewership for these events?
Joe Andrews: At The Races broadcasts almost 60% of all UK & Irish fixtures as well as racing from South Africa, USA, UAE and Australia, with a monthly reach of 1.6 million. The coverage is very much targeted to the punter, but we try and make it fun, informative and engaging. Shows like ‘Get In’ on a Friday evening have built a strong following due to the entertaining nature of the show and the banter between Jason Weaver and, recently crowned Horse Racing Broadcaster Of The Year, Luke Harvey.
The growth of our social media platforms over recent years has also played a big part in engaging with our viewers in real time, which is crucial for a live sports channel like At The Races. Free to play competitions like the Jumps season ‘Stable Stars’, the All-Weather tipping challenge, and the new ATR Selector also help add interest to the racing we show.
SBC: With a continued focus on ATR’s mobile app, how important is it that you place an emphasis on appealing to viewers on multiple platforms?
JA: The App is a very important part of our digital offering, and has been a big success, but it’s just one part of our comprehensive digital platforms. Consumers want quick and easily accessible information and the App delivers that, with so much data and betting advice available to racing fans the desktop version of the site is essential and gives that extra detail that is difficult to fit in to an App.
We have also been working on a new mobile version of the desktop site which we hope will be launching in Q1 2018 which will bring all the information of the desktop site on to mobile and tablet platforms. We know that a lot of our viewers watch the channel while using our app and/or desktop site so we have also ensured that as well as having information to bet, users are able to place a bet through the integrated betting on the App or website so At The Races offers a full rounded service to punters, and a fantastic acquisition and retention tool for bookmakers.
SBC: In all sports the desired levels of data have increased immensely, has this forced you to adapt your coverage of racing?
JA: We are always looking for innovative ways to use the data in racing both on the TV channel and across our digital platforms. One of the challenges you have with horse racing is trying to appeal to and inform your seasoned punters, while at the same time breaking down the data and making it easy to understand for recreational horse racing viewers. At The Races recently launched a British first in having sectional times and in-race data displaying the speed of the leading horse, furlong by furlong splits, and total time of the race. This has started at Wolverhampton and is being rolled out across the other all-weather tracks soon. This data is also displayed on the At The Races website with easy to understand icons and charts.
SBC: Do you anticipate that the impending government regulations on betting operators could have any impact on the racing?
JA: We will have to wait and see what happens before we know if it will have an impact, and if so how far reaching it will be. We can all speculate about what will happen if stakes on FOBTs are reduced, but I’m of the opinion that stakes on horse racing and greyhound racing will increase as a result with people choosing to put their money back in to live sport rather than in to the machines.
As a broadcaster, streaming provider, and affiliate I do not expect there to be too much impact on us directly unless there is regulation around TV advertising. We started taking bookmaker spot advertising in October this year which is proving very popular with bookmaker and gaming brands, and if the government decide to reduce or ban adverts during certain hours then of course we will comply with that.
SBC: How important is it that safeguards are put in place to protect racing should funding from betting operators decrease in the new year?
JA: Horse racing continues to be a very important part of a sportsbook offering in the UK & Ireland. Bookmakers need racing, and racing needs bookmakers. It will be very interesting to see what the levy payment for the 17-18 year will be with the new system that came in to place last April where by all operators taking bets on British racing will have to contribute, even if they’re based offshore. One would imagine this will boost the dwindling numbers of previous years significantly.
As a business, we work with over 30 bookmakers and they are very important to us. We speak to them on a regular basis to ensure that we are maximising the marketing opportunities that we can provide them, and also that we are delivering the content they want, and as long as we keep doing this we hope that they will continue to see At The Races as a valuable partner.