High-definition broadcasts of daily thoroughbred racing in Saratoga Springs is one step closer to becoming a reality.
The New York Racing Association will begin recording its races in high definition this spring at Belmont Park. Racing during the summer meet at the Saratoga Race Course will be recorded the same way, but as of now residents in the Capital Region don’t have the ability to watch these broadcasts on their televisions.
That’s because the television station operated by the Capital District Off Track Betting Corporation, which airs NYRA races, doesn’t yet broadcast in high definition. But with plans for NYRA to adopt a high-definition signal, it’s possible the local broadcast could be due for an upgrade.
“With only three tracks in the entire country currently providing a high-definition signal, it has not been practical to date for OTB-TV to convert our operations to an HD format,” Capital OTB President John Signor said in a statement.
“However, we have been preparing for several years for the day to arrive when the horse racing industry finally catches up with other professional sports and allows viewers to watch our product in HD,” he said. “We applaud the steps NYRA and other tracks are now taking to improve the fan experience for viewers and as more and more tracks begin providing high definition broadcasts.”
Tom Thill, NYRA’s chief information officer, said they anticipate the high-definition signal will make their product look a lot better. Currently only major NYRA races, which are carried on network television, are broadcast in high-definition.
The improved signal is made possible with 12 new cameras that were purchased as part of the $2.1 million that NYRA will spend this year on NYRA TV. The cameras will be transported between NYRA’s three tracks, which don’t run races at the same time.
All of the televisions at NYRA facilities with high-definition capability will broadcast the better picture. The new signal will also improve the quality of online streaming of races.
This upgrade is viewed as especially important to attract a new generation of fans, who have grown up accustomed to sports being broadcast in high definition.
There are still many televisions at NYRA facilities, including the Saratoga Race Course, which only broadcast in standard definition. Because of the new signal, Thill said, “It will force us to take a hard look at the old televisions.”
Now that NYRA has upgraded its signal, he added, hopefully fans will ask for a high-definition broadcast from Capital OTB.
As this new capability is being implemented, Signor said, “OTB-TV is currently reviewing what steps would be needed to convert our current analog station to an HDTV station so that horse racing fans in the Capital Region can have the same HD experience that fans of other major sports have enjoyed.”
The Capital OTB channel is channel 12 for Time Warner Cable subscribers. Residents in New York City also have access to a NYRA channel, which replaced the failed New York City OTB.