Trackside and TAB Update
By Michael Guerin
New Zealand punters are set to have more options as to how they watch their racing which could start as soon as next week.
Because while Trackside will continue as normal with two channels on Sky after the two companies resigned their agreement, there is one major change which could be the first step toward major meetings having exclusive, uninterrupted coverage.
The continuation of the TAB’s agreement with Sky means the two Trackside channels will continue but Sky’s contract is now non-exclusive, meaning the TAB can use the vision on other platforms.
The first of those is likely to be a YouTube channel they are hoping to have broadcasting for part of Vodafone Derby Day at Ellerslie as a test case on how premier meetings could be shown in the future.
At present New Zealand’s major meetings are extremely well served with their lead-in times and amount of coverage but because most are on Saturdays the Trackside coverage gets congested once the major Australian meetings in Victoria and NSW kick in.
That means sometimes a major, even group one New Zealand race, can be run and Trackside have little choice but to cut away quickly to Melbourne or Sydney meetings not only because of the turnover they generate but the enormous interest in high-end Australian racing.
But because the new contract with Sky means New Zealand racing can now be shown on other platforms, the TAB are investigating non-stop coverage of premier meetings, including potentially the Harness Jewels,
That would mean racing fans who want to watch all the post-race interviews from an Ellerslie or Addington, along with race reviews, presentations and then have extended previews and parade ring coverage will be able to do so on a digital platform.
Those who prefer the back to back racing bouncing around between the meetings on both sides of the Tasman can still watch Trackside whereas the extended coverage will be on what industry insiders term “second screen.”
Some punters may choose to watch the YouTube channel on their phones, tablets or computers but the more tech savvy will be able to run it through their television. Some may want to watch both screens at once and jump between the two.
TAB general manager of content and distribution Andy Kydd says Derby Day was a natural fit for a trial of the new online coverage, although that may not be for the entire meeting.
“Obviously Derby Day is coming around pretty quickly so while we would like to do it for that meeting we still have some things to iron out,” says Kydd.
“But we would like to be able to give viewers and punters the option to stick with one meeting, particularly the premier Saturday meeting if they want.
“We also have to be mindful though of ensuring Trackside’s channels cover all the usual racing because it is a key turnover driver and that is how the industry makes its money.”
Successful trials of using a YouTube platform for premier coverage could see all major NZ meetings eventually covered in that way and opens up the option for it to be shown on other websites or even code-specific separate digital channels.
That is already being touted for the NZ thoroughbred racing website and and could be streamed on HRNZ.CO.NZ in the future,
And depending on when the Racefields legislation is finally signed, NZ racing could even be shown on other bookmaking sites to drive their turnover, which New Zealand racing will clip the ticket for in the future.
The new deal will also allow broader coverage of New Zealand racing in highlight form on platforms like Facebook and Twitter for those who can’t watch the races live.
The next major hurdle punters will be wanting the TAB to negotiate is making live racing available via digital services anywhere in the world. It is a common complaint of Kiwi race fans travelling that they can’t watch New Zealand racing live unless they have their phone on roaming and use that data, rather than on overseas computers or using wifi.
Those rights are tied up in the agreement the TAB has with Tabcorp in Australia, who currently hold their international vision rights, an agreement that runs until later this year.
The dream scenario for punters would be being able to access New Zealand racing from anywhere in the world via one website, which the new YouTube channel wouldn’t provide as it would be geo-blocked because of the Tabcorp agreement.