By Bill Finley
Some 23 years after it debuted, the TVG network underwent a major shift Thursday, its first day not as TVG but as FanDuel TV. There's a new name and a new direction. Between midnight and noon each day, racing coverage will not exist. Instead, the network will feature a number of shows that focus on sports wagering during those hours. While that may not be well received by TVG's loyal viewers, FanDuel executives insist that racing coverage is not going anywhere. Better yet, they believe they can introduce sports bettors to horse racing and increase racing's popularity and the amount bet on the game. What does it all mean? The TDN sat down with Andrew Moore, Vice President of Racing for the FanDuel group, to get his take on a new era when it comes to FanDuel's relationship with racing.
TDN: As I am sure you know, many racing fans are nervous about the rebranding of TVG and the switch over to programming focusing on sports betting, worried that this is the beginning of the end when it comes to TVG-FanDuel covering racing. Tell us why they need not worry?
AM: This a network people care about deeply and have felt that way for 20 odd years. The talent feels like friends and family to a lot of our regular viewers. They also have very tight bonds to different tracks that we show. It's very emotive. That people are concerned is a testament to what a great thing TVG has been and how much some people love it. From our perspective, we've got to make sure that we keep moving, we keep building and we attract a new audience while at the same time continue to grow and build this great thing that we've spent 23 years investing in.
From a horse racing perspective, we're going to do be doing more. We've got a number of positive things happening when it comes to the content. We will be walking the walk and showing that we are committed to horse racing content. Talk can be cheap but content, deals and commitments will be a matter of walking the walk.
We built something incredible, so why would we change? I know people are saying you're going to sack some of your talent. It's more a matter of we're going to need to hire more people because there will be more races to cover. Yes, there will be some things on in the morning that aren't horse racing that people are not necessarily going to love. But what's been on during that time before has been international horse racing of low quality.
I feel like if we really care about this network, we need to invest in it and this is the most sensible way to invest in it. Leverage the FanDuel brand. We would be doing the network a disservice if we don't lean into this and take advantage of those opportunities.
TDN: During the hours when racing is being shown, will some of that time also be devoted to sports betting? Perhaps, say, with 12 minutes to post at Del Mar, might someone come on and talk about the over-under in the Cubs game? And will there be any opportunities for the talking heads who do the sports betting programs to talk about horse racing?
AM: We will try different things. We will try to do it in a way that fits with the programming in a sense that it doesn't feel jarring. We would avoid a situation where the horses are going down to the start and we switch to a talking head telling you that Mookie Betts is plus 350 to hit a home run tonight and you can make that bet right now with the FanDuel sports book…now let's go back to Matt Carothers and hear what he has to say about this horse's stride.
They are two different subjects and it will never be perfectly seamless. But, we have to do it in a way that is not jarring and is considerate of the current viewer. We will try things. I'd be very surprised if we didn't. Frankly, when there's not a lot going on, if you do it well and have the right people on the air, who's to say that it wouldn't fit? If you're covering Del Mar and talking about the Padres, who are five miles away, that sort of thing would probably work.
It can work both ways. Who's to say we wouldn't have Kay Adams talking about the Derby? What excites me opportunity-wise is how we can feed these things into each other and how they can elevate each other. At the start, we will do things that don't work. That's the nature of taking risks. My job is to grow horse racing. It would be very easy to sit back with our ADW business and say we've got to this position of being No. 1 and, so, we can sit back. That's not the way it works. What is way more exciting is to work on how we can keep bringing in new fans.
TDN: When announcing the renaming of TVG the company also let it be known that it is very close to being able to start taking bets on racing through its traditional sports betting platforms. To have people be able to bet on sports and racing from the same wallet is something racing has longed for for years. Tell us more about the process and what this could mean for horse racing.
AM: We have this massive FanDuel brand which is growing exponentially with sports betting and we are the market leader in that space. We are also the market leader in the horse racing space. They are two separate worlds but there are a lot of ways that they can complement each other, including how we can expose a lot of young fans to horse racing. We felt, in regards to wagering, the best strategy was to put racing into the sports books as a part of ADW wagering and doing so with pari-mutuel wagering rather than fixed odds.
This really started in 2019 when we were working on the FanDuel stand-alone racing app. We leveraged the FanDuel brand, released an app to the market and we learned about customers' habits. What they liked, what they didn't like, all the while trying to attract a new audience. That was launched in 2020. We had a lot of pick up especially during Covid when most of the other sports were shut down.
But it wasn't in the same account wallet and the reason why it wasn't on the same account wallet was because it was really hard technically to do. Sports betting engines and tote engines are different. Tote wallets and sports wallets are different. There has been a lot of technological work that has been done over the past two years to integrate racing and the sport book so that when you log onto the sports book you will be able to bet on horse racing with the same funds you've been using to bet on sports. That was a huge challenge.
We are hoping that we will have this up and running in some states by the first week of October and have more states come on line by the Breeders' Cup. With the Breeders' Cup being such a good wagering product, we'd very much like expose it to our sports betting customers.
TDN: You said the sports book will be taking pari-mutuel bets. That goes against a sentiment in the industry that there has to be a conversion to fixed odds in order for the marriage of sports betting and racing to work. Your thoughts on this?
AM: Fixed odds is an interesting customer proposition but there are regulatory issues and the matter of getting it going in enough states so that it can make an impact. The industry is built on pari-mutuel wagering, as it is in places like Hong Kong and France. There's nothing wrong with that. We've learned a lot through (Betfair), when we tried it in New Jersey and it failed. One of reasons it failed was we didn't have the content and also we could never really stretch beyond New Jersey. Coming back full circle, we are saying, ok, let's put the tote into the sports book because that way we can have all the content and we can also scale out to numerous states because we are already in 33 states with TVG.
I think taking pari-mutuel bets on the sports book has a very good chance of working. Do I think there is a world where pari-mutuel and fixed odds can live together? Absolutely. This is the first step and right now it doesn't involve fixed odds because if we went in that direction we'd be very limited in what we can do with it. Fixed odds is not our focus because it doesn't provide the same opportunities that we will have with pari-mutuel betting. So what we will be doing is giving pari-mutuel every chance of succeeding.
TDN: If FanDuel is successful with its racing product it stands to reason that your competitors will follow. Perhaps, in five or six years, betting on racing will be widely available in the sports betting universe. What sort of opportunity would that be for racing?
AM: We are always trying to grow our audience over time and we will be the first sports book that offers racing. I am very excited about that. We see it as a unique advantage. We are going to be introducing an exiting sport to people that they can watch, make bets on and make bets where there is the chance of a massive payout. Racing has a lot going for it.
When you're talking about the number of people betting on sports you're talking millions. This year, we had more customers on the FanDuel sports book for the Super Bowl than we had in the complete history of TVG. You do not need to grab a huge share of that market to really grow horse racing pools. Eighty percent of wagering on sports is on football, baseball, basketball, hockey, which includes college sports. So 20 percent of the pie left and it includes a lot of sports and racing has an huge advantage over them. If you're not a horse racing person per se, but if you live in New York, you're aware of Belmont, Aqueduct, Saratoga. Everyone knows about the Kentucky Derby. Racing has a very good product that features things other sports don't necessarily have. We have to lean into that edge and capitalize on it.
TDN: So how does the sport capitalize in it? What are some of the ways racing can better position itself to make itself attractive to the sports bettor?
AM: That's the most intriguing part of that, when will customers drift over to racing and how do we execute on that? We will be watching our customer behavior very closely and there's a business fit and there's a customer fit. Suppose we discover that the customers are going to racing at a certain time of the day. This is a complete hypothetical, but let's say we find that for the Thursday night football game we get a lot of horse racing pick up at a certain time, maybe before the game starts. If that's a time when people are actually discovering racing and interacting with racing, we'd love to see the tracks react by offering their best products. Even though it would be Thursday and in the evening hours, how about a major track running and running some big stakes races? It will be a fun exercise to figure out how the customers interact, what customers like and don't like and what we need to give them more of and when.