Cable television is one of the few industries that have been able to pass on double-digit price increases to customers during a recession.  Now, however, with monthly subscriber rates at $100 to $150 or more, cable television companies are encountering growing resistance.  This has significant implications for televised horse racing, particularly in reaching a younger audience.

A study by GigaOM found that in the second quarter of 2010, cable television providers lost 711,000 customers and–for the first time in history–subscriber increases at satellite and IPTV firms such as DirectTV and Verizon did not compensate for the cable attrition.  About 216,000 of the 711,000 subscribers that disconnected cable TV did not switch to a satellite or IPTV provider.

GigaOM confirmed that in the third quarter of 2010, the trend continued.  Cable providers lost 518,300 subscribers (not counting the losses at privately held Cox Communications) and 200,000 of these did not sign up with a satellite or IPTV alternative.

GigaOM concluded:  “The $100 cable bill is dead; the cable industry just doesn’t know it yet. What killed it wasn’t just a combination of ad-supported online video sites and cheap subscription video services, but a fundamental inability on the part of TV programmers and cable companies to reach the next generation of consumers.”

The major television broadcasters are already distributing programming that has been aired—called “catch-up” or “on-demand” services—via Internet television.  Hulu, a joint venture of three networks, gives viewers in the United States free access to recorded programs on the Internet or through Web TV.  (With Web TV, viewers can surf the Internet and do email on their television sets.)  Another company, wwiTv, allows viewers around the globe to watch, at no charge, both live and recorded television shows on the Internet that emanate from roughly 2,600 television stations in a large number of countries. 

The Internet’s technological challenge to cable and satellite television is just getting underway.  Yet the nascent trend will surely accelerate and Internet television will become an even more formidable rival.  The television networks are battling to protect their own content by suing two startups that stream television stations online in real time without permission.

The 2010 Breeders’ Cup saw ratings soar on ESPN, but the television audience would undoubtedly have been larger had the primetime broadcast been on network television, simply because not all television households subscribe to cable TV, satellite TV, or IPTV.   Similarly, had the live Breeders’ Cup telecast been widely available on Internet TV, the capability for reaching a massive global audience would have been enhanced many times over.  While HRTV and TVG are available online, they are pay services.

The communications frontier for horse racing is Internet television.  Currently, taped broadcasts of major races are available on YouTube and elsewhere.  Soon, advertiser-supported live Internet broadcasts will be customary.

Copyright © 2011 Horse Racing Business

Originally published in the Blood-Horse.  Used with permission.


  1. For the life of me, I don’t understand why TVG does not have a full fledged online streaming TV channel like HRTV does. It’s the only regular channel I watch, I do not have cable TV or satliate; If I want to watch a basketball game I can watch it on ESPN3 for free. If I want to watch law and order / CSI I can watch it on netflix or hulu. Between HRTV, Hulu and netflix I pay about 25 dollars a month and have everything I want and then some.

  2. make it easy to watch and wager on mobile devices(smart phone)

  3. palaceplace says

    i watch all the races at all the tracks, LIVE, for free on the internet.this is in canada, were we get screwed big time by the monopolistic cable guys. no competition. 1 provider per area. take it or leave it.
    join, which is owned by woodbine race track and every track , real time , is available to you.