INTERNET BRAND BUILDING

A condensed version of this post appeared in the Blood-Horse. Reproduced with permission.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) is pursuing a leading-edge media strategy by streaming prominent stakes races live at NTRA.com. This is an increasingly effective way to reach younger viewers in particular.

The validity of these statements is shown by the results of a recent scientifically conducted study by the Retrevo Pulse Report headlined under the caption “Is the Internet Killing Cable TV?” (Retrevo is a consumer electronics shopping site that provides contemporaneous information from the Internet about what products to purchase, when to buy, and where to acquire them.) Over 1,000 people “distributed across gender, age, income, and location in the United States,” were asked the question: “How much TV do you currently watch on the Internet/online?”

For the entire sample, the answers were: some, 51%; most, 8%; all, 5%; and none, 36%. When answers for respondents under 25 years of age were isolated, the results showed a stronger preference for online viewing: some, 54%, most, 23%; all, 6%; and none 17%. Thus almost one-fourth of the “under 25” age group said they do “most” of their television viewing online.

There were marked gender differences in online viewing across all age groups. About twice as many men versus women said that they do “most” or “all” of their television viewing online, 17% for men and 9% for women.

A question was included to determine enhancements that would encourage additional online viewing: “What would it take to get you to watch all your TV shows online?” The top responses were: HDTV, 20%; premium shows like HBO, 19%; and live sports, 15%.

The upsurge in online viewing is made possible by evermore sophisticated mobile communications devices, faster broadband, proliferating wi-fi, and free access to television programs on websites like Hulu and ESPN360. The Retrevo study confirmed that another important cause is the escalating price to consumers of cable and satellite television service. Retrevo asked: “Have you considered cancelling your cable or satellite service?” Fifty-seven percent of respondents said that they are happy with their service and another 17% indicated that they have not contemplated cancelling “because I would not be able to watch my favorite shows.” Yet 26% have already cancelled or are considering doing so.

The research indicates that online viewing will expand with inevitable improvements in the visual quality of programming and more access to popular television shows. Online viewing is following a pattern similar to cell phone usage. As cell phone service improved, long distance became part of the package, and prices declined, subscribers increasingly took out their landline phones altogether.

Racetrack owners did not embrace television in its early years and the sport paid a lasting price vis-à-vis other sports that dominate today. It appears that NTRA is determined not to repeat this Luddite blunder when it comes to online viewing. The racetracks need to quickly join in by streaming all their races on the Internet for free.

While online viewing is in its infancy, the practice is accelerating and the future is evident.

Copyright © 2010 Horse Racing Business

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