Horse racing is a few furlongs behind some of the world’s biggest sports when it comes to adopting a modern media strategy. This is a problem that Fitzdares and Quantum Leap Solutions believe they have a solution for.
In fact, racing has been ‘about 100 years’ behind other sports – that is until now, William Woodhams remarks. In an interview with Insider Sport just after the launch of The Racing App, Fitzdares’ CEO explains how the bookmaker is taking a new approach to racing media.
“Anyone who has studied the NFL and EPL knows more data, more streaming, more video, more content will build narratives and engagement with the sport.
“Until this point all of that content has been sifting in 20 different places. It’s kind of crazy that the sport hasn’t been able to aggregate all of this content.”
UK racing has two key rights holders, the Racecourse Media Group (RMG) and the Arena Racecourses Company (ARC), which distribute live racing coverage and content to broadcasters and bookmakers alike.
Having a two-broadcaster model for a sport is nothing new – take football, for example, which sees various competitions distributed across multiple media outlets, such as Sky Sports, BT Sport, ITV and the BBC, depending on the tournament.
The main difference between football and racing is the fact that the former’s popularity and engagement levels have endured. Racing’s struggles with reaching new audiences, on the other hand, are well documented.
“It’s about time we had a one stop shop for all data in racing,” Woodhams asserted, pointing out that in the modern age of TikTok and Instagram, data and content are in high demand.
This is what The Racing App aims to provide. A one stop shop, as Woodhams put it, for horse racing enthusiasts, which allows users to select a horse and immediately see its last 10 runs
“You can form an opinion on a horse without having to watch TV all day – and that’s what the kids want!” he laughed. “They want to instantly access all the content in one channel and get an opinion, and not only that, punters are the same.”
“It will make it much easier for a huge cohort of racing fans, and we hope that as a brand that sits independently from a bookmaker or a data provider it is a nice environment for people to watch the racing.”
Whilst The Racing App will operate independently of bookmakers, one has had a significant say in its development, however, that company of course being Fitzdares.
The company’s main contribution is powering the app’s prices, whilst also bringing in its own previously held streaming rights – Woodhams observed that Fitzdares, like other operators, has paid millions for its racing data feeds.
Meanwhile, the bookmakers’ partners Quantum Leap have handled the technology and development side of the app, and high-profile racing broadcaster Nick Luck has provided promotion.
Although hardly alone in being hard hit by the conditions of the pandemic, racing has continued to feel the squeeze in the years since. Attendance numbers are falling, and football has overtaken the sport as the most bet on market even prior to reports of a strange new virus in 2019.
Given how reliant the sport is on betting revenue via the bookmaker levy, it is vital for racing’s growth prospects that stakeholders find new ways to engage with customers.
Content is King it seems, and Woodhams cites the US as a model UK racing could learn from. American broadcasters are integrating bookmaker-provided prices into their coverage of racing, and whilst this has been done to some extent back in Britain, such as with ITV, it is nowhere near on the same level.
“The consumer and public are anti-hard sell, they’re over Ray Winstone shouting at them, and we need to insert ourselves politely and elegantly into content,” Woodhams remarks, adding that the app includes a ‘value price’ for horses that can be compared with the market price.
“What we’re doing is sharing industry knowledge with people so they can make a better decision in their betting. We want them to be better bettors because they’re safer and longer term. We’re going to introduce speed form next year, to give the customer more data to make an informed decision, and that will ultimately make the sport more entertaining.”
Bookmaker engagement with media is nothing new, whether through LiveScore Group’s convergence model, Tabcorp’s racing broadcasts in Australia or Entain’s reported interest in media in that same country.
Greater use of media is now catching Fitzdares’ attention too, with Woodhams emphasising that the firm is ‘absolutely focused on delivering world class content’, and is closely monitoring developments in the US and Canada.
Racing is the firm’s initial focus through the aptly titled Racing App, which Woodhams notes is due to Fitzdares’ historic connection to the sport, but the creation of a ‘sincere content hub’ encompassing other sports could be a future move.
“We’re absolutely focused on delivering world class content, and the fact we’ve brought out an app that is industry leading, shows we’re committed to this properly,” he concludes.
“We’ve got our eyes on a few opportunities in that content sphere, if we could own global racing content in the next two years that’s our ambition.”