Racing Returns to FOX Sports
Michael Mulvihill Michael Mulvihill - Senior Vice President of Programming and Research, FOX Sports Media Group

Michael Mulvihill : Good morning. Thank you all for giving me a few minutes of your time today. I'm Mike Mulvihill, and I'm the Senior Vice President of Programming and Research for FOX Sports. As a longtime fan of Thoroughbred racing, I'm always happy to be in Saratoga Springs for any reason, but I'm particularly pleased to be here at this moment as our company is poised to launch FOX Sports 1, the most exciting new venture we've undertaken in many years and a network that will fundamentally change the sports media landscape. I'll talk more about that in a moment.

I'm also happy to be here in light of our announcement earlier this week that for the first time FOX Sports and The Jockey Club have joined forces to create an exciting new series of nationally televised races highlighting the best of the handicap ranks.

Before we talk in more detail about our partnership with The Jockey Club, let me take a moment to tell about America's new sports network, FOX Sports 1; hopefully some of you are aware of FS1, but for those of you who may not be, let me give you a thumbnail sketch.

This Saturday, August 17, we'll launch FOX Sports 1 over 90 million homes nationwide, one of the largest launches in television history. We've invested over $20 billion in sports rights for sports broadcasting and live events for FOX Sports 1, and we have amassed a portfolio that will make FOX Sports 1 the strongest challenger ever to ESPN.

Thoroughbred racing on FS1 will be surrounded by the most popular sports in America, with something for every type of sports fan. Major League Baseball regular season and playoff games, including the league championship series and division series starting next year, NASCAR's Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races, over 50 college football games, highlighting the Big 12 and Pac 12 conferences, over 100 college basketball games over 100 from the new Big East conference, compelling hand to hand sports including the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and Golden Boy Boxing, and international soccer, including the UEFA Champion's League, and rights to the men's and women's World Cup starting in 2015. In addition we'll also have championship golf events from the USGA, including the Men's U.S. Open also starting in 2015, and of course a tremendous series of top level Graded Stakes races presented by The Jockey Club and America's Best Racing.

We'll also launch FOX Sports 1 with a credible, 24 hour news division that will provide an alternative to the status quo. And we'll have a diverse mix of studio and taped programming that will include the documentary series Being, the interview show FOX Sports 1 on 1, and the light hearted talk show, Crowd Goes Wild, hosted by our new friend, Regis Philbin.

Our goals in developing the FOX Sports 1 programming philosophy have been twofold: One, we have sought to build a big tent in which every kind of sports fan will have a home. At FOX, we are passionate believers in the unique ability of sports to bring people together like nothing else.

Truly, that is the foundation of our business. We want FOX Sports 1 to be a welcoming environment where every type of fan, young and old, urban and rural, die hard and casual, affluent and blue collar from every corner of this country has a reason to join in the fun. That simple word, fun, is at the heart of our other goal, which is to accentuate the positive in sports and highlight the people, places and events that make sports fun.

There is no question that horse racing will be an important part of our effort.

One reason that I am personally excited to be in partnership with The Jockey Club is because I am a fan of this game myself. My first visit to Saratoga was in 1994 when the great Holy Bull held off Concern deep in the stretch at the Travers Stakes. Needless to say, I backed Concern that day, but I was hooked and I had an opportunity to visit Saratoga every summer since.

And speaking as a fan first, I believe we have a special opportunity for FOX Sports 1 to play a key role in developing national interests in this game. So let's define that opportunity and understand what we're trying to accomplish.

I believe that our opportunity is less about creating brand new fans than it is about developing occasional viewers into more regular players, and I'm a stats guy so, let me throw a statistic at you to illustrate what I mean.

In 2012, according to our friends at Nielsen Research, over 36.5 million people watched either the Triple Crown or the Breeders Cup. That's an impressive number. That is a nice place to start. But of that number, an incredible 92% didn't watch any other horse racing all year. To put that in some context, if we make the same comparison to the Super Bowl, only 15% of the Super Bowl audience doesn't watch any other football all year. So there is a lot of room to grow those viewers of jewel events into regular week in and week out viewers.

That 90% figure represents over 31 million people who have already demonstrated some level of interest in racing, but completely disappear between the Belmont Stakes and Breeders' Cup and again between the Breeders' Cup and Kentucky Derby.

If I may, I would suggest to you that those viewers represent an enormous opportunity for this sport. How do we build those occasional viewers into more regular fans and bettors? In my admittedly biased opinion, national television exposure is critical in converting light viewers into regular players, and I think that was affirmed by the excellent research McKinsey & Company presented at this conference two years ago.

In order to understand how television can best help thoroughbred racing, we first have to acknowledge that the business model of horse racing is unique among all of the sport that's we at FOX partner with. For the most part, sports organizations, major leagues, and college conferences are really in the media content business. Most of our league partners realize the bulk of their revenue through the sale of media rights.

Therefore, for a partner like the National Football League, success on television is profitable in and of itself. The typical NFL viewer is a driver of revenue, even if they never buy a jersey or buy a ticket to a game. Racing is different. TV revenue will never be more than a tiny fraction of national handle. So while it's obviously a goal of mine to help grow viewing of horse racing, we can't look at the ratings as an end in themselves. Instead we should look at TV coverage as a means to a larger goal. As an ongoing promotional vehicle that inspires passive viewers to become active players who will contribute to growth and handle. That has to be our mission.

An important part of accomplishing that mission is making the highest level of the sport more regularly available on national platforms. As you heard Jason Wilson say just a few moments ago, thanks in part to our partnership, the number of nationally televised hours of racing will double in 2014 compared to where it was just a few years ago. That's a fantastic accomplishment. But equally important is that we use the hours we have available to us to teach the game to novice fans.

The appeal of horse racing is both in the visceral power of the thoroughbred, and the data rich puzzle of handicapping. As a visual medium, TV does a beautiful job of conveying the beauty and power of the equine athlete, but we must draw occasional viewers deeper into the challenge of handicapping.

At FOX, we believe wholeheartedly to balance entertainment with a sugar coated pill of education in all of our sports coverage. The NFL is probably the best example.

The incredible speed and of power of NFL football are obvious appeals, but we balance that by educating the viewer with insightful analysis and technology like the Telestrator. I'm convinced that balance is a major reason why the NFL enjoys such huge popularity.

So as we and the other NFL broadcast partners have tried to teach the game to the viewer at home, we must have a way to explain horse racing to the occasional fan. Why was the early pace significant in this year's Preakness? Why did it matter that Todd Pletcher took the blinkers off Palace Malice in the Belmont?

The answer to those questions are second nature to the people in this room, but to the 31 million out there who watch racing just once or twice a year, I promise you those answers are elusive. It's up to us to provide them.

By showcasing the best of the handicap division, by highlighting the North American racetracks of North America, and by showing the viewers the sheer beauty of the thoroughbred and explaining the game in a way that is understandable to the newcomer, we'll inspire those occasional viewers to become regular players themselves.

With all that in mind, I'm proud to build the team that will build the inaugural racing on FOX Sports 1. We start next February at Gulfstream with coverage of the Donn and the Gulfstream Park Handicap, then we tour the continent with visits to the most legendary tracks in racing. Ten telecasts of 90 minutes each with an expected total of at least 12 Grade 1 races.

To the management of the tracks that will be part of our series, thank you. We look forward to unveiling our complete 2014 schedule in the weeks ahead.

These are exciting days at FOX Sports, to say the least. And I couldn't be happier that The Jockey Club is going to be part of our new adventure with FOX Sports 1. We believe in the present and future of this storied sport, and we can't wait to build a team that will draw fans deeper into the game by showcasing its grandeur and explaining its nuances.

I want to encourage any and all of you in this room to reach out to me at any time with your questions, your concerns, your brilliant ideas, your off the wall ideas, this is FOX after all, and of course your handicapping advice, because we could use it.

Again, to the racetracks and horsemen that will be part of our series, thank you. To all the members of the racing media here today, thank you in advance for all the wonderful and dazzling stories you're going to write about FOX Sports 1, right? We'll talk.

Most of all to the membership and management of The Jockey Club, Mr. Phipps, Stuart, Ian, Jim, thank you for your partnership and your belief in FOX Sports 1. Our best is yet to come. Thank you very much.

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