Shake-up at TVG doesn't clear air


If you’re a horse racing fan, I know you’ve watched the races live on TVG. And regardless whether you like the network’s coverage, the fingerprints of executive vice president for television Tony Allevato are all over TVG’s programming.

Allevato, who was with TVG since its infancy in 1998, was fired this week. He was not the only one let go, but he was the most well known to viewers.

I take no joy in anyone losing their job. But if you read the various horse racing blogs, many are celebrating the news.

Allevato came from Hollywood Park where he was in charge of the track’s TV production. R.D. Hubbard, former owner of Hollywood Park, wielded a lot of influence back then, and his clout helped Allevato land the coveted TVG spot.

Allevato handpicked the on-air talent and many are still in place, such as Matt Carothers, Todd Schrupp and Greg Wolf. Other originals such as Chris Harrison (host of “The Bachelor”) and Ken Rudolph (host of “Good Morning Sacramento”) have moved on to greener pastures.

TVG was the first network fully devoted to horse racing and its mission has been debated from the start. Allevato was given a delicate balancing act of promoting gambling and being entertaining and relevant to hardcore horseplayers, while also marketing to newcomers.

One universal complaint was the constant suggested wagers put forth by the on-air talent. A pick was made in every race. Expensive pick 4 and pick 6 tickets, that seldom won, always were offered.

TVG never accounted for the profitability of these bets.

A few years ago a local reader, as best he could, kept a spreadsheet of all the TVG handicapper’s suggested plays. Yes, he missed some shows and even complete days. But his final ledger for the year, unscientific as it was, showed no one made money. With one handicapper’s picks, you would have lost more than $75,000.

Handicappers were not the only ones losing money. TVG has yet to be profitable. The network was bought by British company Betfair with one thing in mind: get exchange wagering passed in California. With the support of Keith Brackpool, former commissioner of the California Horse Racing Board and now head of Santa Anita Park, this measure was adopted.

Unprofitable or not, TVG still holds enormous value. There are good reasons why most sports have their own channel. The ability to control content and market directly to your customers is Business 101.

TVG’s future will impact the entire sport and not just Betfair. Another horse racing channel, HRTV, is providing outstanding service to the industry. However, a successful TVG is equally important for long-term growth.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.