Q&A with Todd Roberts of Racetrack Television Network


Racecourse television network is the industry leader in providing high-definition live horse racing video broadcasts from around the world to consumers in their homes and on their mobile devices. He has been an innovator in this field since its launch as an offshoot of the Roberts Communications Network, which introduced simulcast signal racing to sports in the 1980s.

Todd Roberts, CEO of Racetrack Television Network, recently took a few minutes to discuss his company’s services and how it meets the needs of racetracks, riders and fans as viewing habits shift to mobile.

Roberts also reflects on his longtime love for the sport, which began as a child watching his father, sports announcer and broadcasting innovator Tommy Roberts, call the races.

What is the RTN? What services does it offer?

The best way to understand RTN is that it’s the all-game package, the league package that other sports have – it’s the NFL Sunday Ticket for horse racing, it’s like NHL Center Ice, NBA League Pass and MLB Extra Innings. We provide full coverage of every track in a unique subscription-based, ad-supported purchasing environment.

How did you become a member of RTN?

We started RTN in 2002. Previously it was TRN, which belonged to a group of track operators, and went bankrupt, but people loved the concept because it was a complete card. . It’s not a linear channel like TVG, which does a great job, but it’s just hard to keep racing fans happy by cutting between tracks and choosing which tracks you’re going to show, so they loved the format because that it’s like they’re sitting in a simulcast jack.

How has your business evolved over the years as fans change their viewing habits?

It used to be a private direct-to-home satellite network – which in itself, at the time of 2002, was a tremendous innovation to be able to bypass one of the traditional pay-TV distributors and go straight to the home of the consumer. , because it’s a niche product, so people would pay to race, especially back then, back home. And then that evolved in 2011 where we ended the private direct-to-home broadcast network and made a deal with DISH Network – we actually built our own 80 channels that coincide with DISH.

What’s innovative about this is that this was the first time someone was able to spawn the simulcast of brick and mortar in a consumer’s home without any retransmission, additional delay and no loss of image quality. So it was in effect a simultaneous distribution to the brick and mortar facilities, which Roberts Communications controls, and to RTN which we control in partnership with DISH. So it was a huge breakthrough.

There is a plus and a minus with this model. The best part is that anyone who wants to watch the races can get DISH Network and install it and there are no limits. It’s not like you’re part of a cable company and they only cover certain areas of the country. So we have national coverage. The downside was that as we tried to access other pay TV platforms, no one had the capacity to give you a package of 80 channels. It is by far the largest offering of sports packages in the world.

You watch NFL, they basically run one day a week with maybe 10 channels. Baseball is bigger, but not that big, hockey and basketball – they’re all in the same boat. They don’t have coverage seven days a week, noon to midnight, 365 days a year, and we do.

As it evolved we quickly moved into online and mobile distribution which once again removed all the limitations and boundaries of traditional pay TV distribution and brought it to people. in another way.

What do you offer with your online / mobile service?

We deliver to smartphones, tablets and desktops. First and foremost, we pride ourselves on having the largest racing track simulcast menu in the world. Few physical locations offer the full menu of simulcast, and we go above and beyond by offering 24 hour races. There are a lot of international races out there.

We offer packages that we have worked very carefully over the years to try to develop. We have replay only packages, we have live broadcast and replay packages, and then we break them down by breed, so you can buy a harness and of course thoroughbred, and there is a Quarter Horse package. . And then we recently started offering individual track packages to get the tracks to stop free streaming on their websites and other areas where they can’t monetize and they can’t control piracy. So we upgrade them to HD (high definition), we put free reruns on their websites, and they promote RTN and encourage people to buy the HD broadcast of their track from the RTN website and to share the income.

The switch to HD in racing has been very beneficial for the tracks and the fans.

This is a perfect solution because so many tracks fear driving someone crazy by ending a free SD (standard definition) stream on their website. People will happily pay $ 5 to get this stream and the archives in HD. You see this revolution in the world of sports. People want sports packages and they want HD, and you can get all of that archive – it’s amazing value.

The problem is, there are too many marketing managers who don’t understand content distribution, and then they think, “Oh, I’m just going to put our feed on our website and that’s a great way to. promote our sport – someone will see it. and want to bet on it, or put it on YouTube or social media. ‘ And it’s absolutely the worst thing you can do. We always tell people it’s like this: you go to San Francisco and you stand in Ghirardelli Square and you see all the candy stores handing out samples. And it’s meant to encourage people to come in and buy a box of chocolates. Racing stands and gives the box of chocolates they are trying to sell inside the store every time they try to give free video feeds. And they don’t understand that there are pirates all over the world making bookies, they don’t pay anything for the leads, and they encourage their bettors to watch the free leads streams, and the leads pay for that.

So monetizing RTN content has been a long, slow, and expensive process, but people are starting to understand it. We are also starting to add other features in RTN, such as carrying sports handicaps. We have a great network on RTN called VSiN, which is based in Vegas, and they have a huge distribution. As racing and sports begin to meet all over the world through sports betting, people will also have access to these channels for free, it is part of their subscription.

How do you see your business growing in the years to come? What new technologies are you passionate about?

One of the things that we are working very hard on is removing latency in broadcasts. Recently, through our sister company Roberts Communications, we upgraded our streaming platform to get the lowest latency we can produce, so basically from source to someone’s device, it takes about four seconds. Which is damn good – a lot of people claim lower but they measure from different points. The other thing we do is that with the feeds that we use and that Roberts delivers, we are only using the internet at the very last moment to deliver to the consumer. People say, “What’s the trick for Internet distribution? The trick is to keep the flow off the Internet for as long as possible.

We’re really proud of the latency and picture quality, and we’re about to undergo a massive picture quality upgrade again, mostly thanks to Roberts Communications, but we’re buying the streams. de Roberts and we are about to see a giant leap not only in the number of HD tracks, but also in the quality of HD going to be improved. So we want RTN to be the one stop shop, but also the known source for the best video, the most videos, and the most different ways to watch videos. It’s supposed to be a league-like product offering.

What attracted you to horse racing? How did you become a fan?

My father introduced me. He was a sports presenter in Philadelphia and played a game for the Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia Warriors before they were the 76ers. He proposed many well-known national sports commentators, at the time of Jim McKay, Jack Whitaker and Chris Schenkel. They evolved into network broadcasting and it moved on to horse racing. So I started going to racetracks at the age of 8, with him.

He made the first national television show on a weekly basis from Hialeah Park and Gulfstream Park in the late 1950s and 1960s, and he also had a radio network for years in the Philadelphia / New Jersey market – mainly Monmouth Park, Atlantic City Race Course. , and Philadelphia Park, now Parx Racing. And so, I would sit in the broadcast booth with him from the time I was 8 and watch him do the radio show, where he would do the main race of the day for any track in Classes. He had over 30-40 radio stations that bought the stream from him and promoted the races. At the time, we would get in the car and start driving home, turn on the radio and listen to his show.

It was my introduction. At the time, he had to sneak me into the freight elevator and get permission from the state stewards to sit in the cabin with him. I was addicted.

What’s your favorite race of all time?

There is no doubt that it was Secretariat’s victory in the Belmont Stakes of 1973. My father made the Triple Crown call that year for the Mutual Radio Network. He called the Belmont Stakes from the Belmont Park dining room because they didn’t have enough space for him. We had her show on our phone system for years when people were put on hold, and they would ask us to hang up so they could finish listening to her call. He called it a 20-length win because from his perspective it was too hard to say. But it was probably one of the best running calls I have ever heard, one of the most exciting, he was a great runner. This race, I can listen to it every day.

Who is your favorite racehorse of all time?

Secretariat, there is no doubt.

What is your favorite race track to visit?

It used to be Hialeah. It was just a magical place. These days, I should probably say Santa Anita Park. Keeneland is very, very special, and Del Mar is really fun. I would say these three.

Are you a horseman? If so, what are your favorite bets?

I play when I’m on the track. I used to play in racing books earlier in my career, but I’m out of time now. I am an exact bettor, this is my favorite bet.

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