by John Piassek
LIVE STREAMING ON SOCIAL MEDIA: THE FUTURE OF RACING?
An interesting nugget popped into my sports news timeline the other day. Major League Baseball and Facebook are in discussions with each other to stream one MLB game per week on the social media site. One time per week, all of Facebook’s nearly 2 billion users will be able to watch a baseball game for free, assuming everything goes to plan.
Two weeks prior, for the first time in history, a college lacrosse game was streamed live on twitter, between my Loyola Greyhounds and the University of Virginia Cavaliers. The broadcast attracted more than 665,000 unique viewers, representing unprecedented exposure for the sport.
Of course, these two are not one-off examples. Live streaming of sports on social media is becoming increasingly commonplace. Last season, the NFL reached an agreement with twitter to stream ten games live on the site. Facebook made a deal with Univision to stream 46 Mexican soccer games during the 2017 season. In a few years, it wouldn’t be surprising if every major sport streamed at least some of their games online.
This brings me to my main point: it’s time for horse racing to get on board, and start getting their product out live on social media.
Now, some tracks have taken small steps in this direction. Some (but not all) tracks stream their races live on their websites. Recently, NYRA broadcast the Withers Stakes on facebook live. They’re positive steps, but there’s a lot of opportunity to grow.
One of the issues racing has on television is that it doesn’t always work as a televised sport. Oftentimes, there’s 45 minutes of buildup for a race that only lasts for, at most, two minutes. Compared to other sports with continuous action that lasts for hours, and it’s easy to see why television executives have historically balked at horse racing.
In contrast, a live stream of a race wouldn’t have to take a long. A few minutes of coverage leading up to the race, the race itself, recap and payoffs. It fits in well with the fast-paced nature of the internet.
Other sports have begun to catch on to the idea that the more exposure you get, the better it is for growing business. Lessons like these were learned at the beginning of media. Originally, sports teams were leery of having their games broadcast on the radio, thinking “why would people show up to our events if they can just listen for free?” In the end, however, getting exposure on radio, and later, television, wound up being the best kind of advertising sports could ask for.
Some out there will say, many fans can watch on an ADW site anyway, so what’s the point of having these races streamed elsewhere? However, if you’re a fan that doesn’t have access to live video on an ADW (like me), then you’re SOL. If you’re a prospective fan, you probably don’t even know what one is, let alone have an account with one.
The way that sports are being streamed to people is starting to change. Having big races streamed on social media is the perfect way for people to discover racing, and will also racing to put itself at the forefront of a technological revolution amongst sports. The question then becomes– which track will take the leap of faith first?