Chasing the Equestrian Set7/11/2011 12:01 AM Eastern
Horse racing-focused network HRTV has
changed programming tracks, placing more emphasis on its
female-themed equestrian events and series than live telecasts
of traditional horse races.
Armed with a new tagline
— HRTV, The Network
for Horse Sports
— the channel, currently
in less than 20 million
homes, hopes to differentiate
itself from other
services such as TVG
Network, as well as other
channels on cable
sports tiers, by bringing
more female viewers to
a male-dominated category,
according to HRTV
executive vice president
and general manager
HRTV still airs around
five to six hours a day
of live horse racing. But
over the past year, it has
added equestrian-themed content that runs in primetime,
including world-class competitions like rodeos and showjumping
events, as well as lifestyle and magazine shows,
according to Bates.
Equestrian programming now represents about 40% of
HRTV’s weekly programming slaten with racing content accounting
for the remaining 60%, according to network officials.
The network has also partnered with video/marketing company
Equestrian Life, which is developing more than 100 hours
of equestrian-themed programming for HGTV.
Bates said the programming emphasis was made to tap into
the more than 88 million horse enthusiasts, many of whom are
older, well-educated and high-income women.
“Horse racing is the No. 1 sport with over 45-year-old females,
so our content really cuts across the entire spectrum of
the equestrian content,” he said.
Bates said the programming change initially didn’t sit well
with the channel’s male-skewing core of horse-racing fans.
But since upping the equestrian ante, the network has added
more viewers and is now reaching out to more female-targeted
advertisers, Bates said, though he would not reveal specifics.
“When we first did it we got a bit of flak, but as people
started to see the content that we were evolving to, we
got twice as many people saying that they liked the other
horse sports programming offerings,” he said. “It really
validated what we were trying to accomplish.”
HAPPY ON A TIER
HRTV has no plans to abandon its live horse-racing roots,
but Bates said the channel will look to offer more educational-
themed programming around live races to appeal
to a wider audience.
“We’ll always do horse racing, but how we present horse
racing may change,” he said.
The network currently has carriage deals with Dish
Network, Verizon Communications’ FiOS TV, AT&T’s
U-Verse TV, Comcast, Charter Commnunications and Insight
Communications, mostly on sports tiers.
“We are more than amenable to going on the sports tier,
and we believe that’s where we should be,” Bates said. “Because
of the demographic, we bring a completely new target
customer segment to the distributor to market to with
regards to sports-tier content.”