Magna Entertainment Corp. -- which owns, manages or operates 13 tracks in
North America -- has come out of the gate with HorseRacing TV.
The network -- which provides 15 hours daily of live thoroughbred, harness
and quarter-horse racing action from some 70 tracks in the United States and
Canada -- will serve as a competitor to The Games Network, the horse-wagering
service that is a subsidiary of Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc.
HRTV bowed late last year on Time Warner Cable's digital tier in San Diego,
according to network officials.
On Jan. 1, it became available in more than 900,000 analog homes in western
Pennsylvania, where it replaced Meadows Racing Network. Magna bought The Meadows
track in Pittsburgh, which served as the base for the regional channel.
HRTV has also reached a pact with the National Cable Television Cooperative,
which represents cable-system operators serving more than 14.5 million
subscribers nationally. The "hunting-license" agreement enables the network to
pursue deals with the co-op's member systems.
All live racing content on HRTV is available for wagering, where permitted by
law, via the phone or Internet through "XpressBet," Magna's national
HRTV president Bill Bridgen said the network, which soft-launched last July,
is available to cable operators free-of-charge. Additionally, HRTV hopes to gain
distribution by providing operators guaranteed per-subscriber carriage fees in
34 states, most of which accept XpressBet in-home wagering.
Bridgen said HRTV, on a quarterly basis, will review subscriber-account
transactional-wagering activity and provide operators with a percentage of that
revenue if it exceeds the minimum guarantee. He would not disclose specific
HRTV will feature exclusive coverage of the action from the 13 racetracks
owned, operated or managed by Ontario-based Magna, and it will have access to
live simulcasts from more than 60 other tracks in North America.
Magna's racetracks include some of the most prestigious names in the sport,
notably Santa Anita Park, Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows in California;
Gulfstream Park in Florida; Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie in Texas; and
Pimlico Race Course -- home of the second jewel in thoroughbred racing's Triple
Crown, The Preakness -- and Laurel Park in Maryland.
The remainder of the programming schedule includes replays and educational
programming related to horse racing.
Bridgen -- a former Fox Sports Net affiliate-relations executive who joined
Magna in January 2002 -- said the network has had discussions with all of the
top 10 MSOs, as well as many smaller ones.
He envisions solid rollouts as cable's digital universe expands, but he
stopped short of making carriage projections.
Citing statistics from the Jockey Club Fact Book, Bridgen said
wagering on horse racing grew from under $9 billion in 1990 to nearly $15
billion in 2001 -- a total that will likely be exceeded when the figures for
2002 are tallied.