Horse Racing Launches, Challenging TV Games

There's a new horse race in town, as Magna Entertainment Corp. has launched HorseRacing TV, competing against Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc.'s TV Games Network.

HorseRacing provides 15 hours of live, daily racing action from 70 tracks in the U.S. and Canada.

HRTV president Bill Bridgen said the network is already on Time Warner Cable's digital tier in San Diego, and claims more than 900,000 analog homes in Western Pennsylvania, where it replaced Meadows Racing Network.

Ontario, Canada-based Magna bought The Meadows track in Pittsburgh, which served as the base for the regional channel.

HRTV also has a master affiliation pact with the National Cable Television Cooperative.

Bridgen is offering free cable carriage and hopes to boost distribution by providing operators guaranteed per-subscriber carriage fees in 34 states.

Bridgen said discussions with MSOs are ongoing, and HRTV envisions solid digital rollouts.

NCTC vice president of programming, national accounts, Scott Abbott said: "This follows a strategy we adopted in late 2001 to look to networks that can create revenue and reduce operating course. If you're going to commit bandwidth, you want some kind of revenue return."

All of HRTV's live racing content is available for wagering, where permitted by law, via the phone or Internet, Bridgen said. HRTV will review subscriber-account wagering activity and provide operators with a percentage of revenue over the minimum guarantee.

TV Games said it welcomed competition. "It makes us sharper. I think soon you'll see some pretty significant distribution advances being made," TV Games president Mark Wilson said regarding carriage prospects.

TVG claims 9 million subscribers, mostly on Dish Network and on some Adelphia Communications, Insight Communications and Comcast systems.