Rich Rosa of LTN Global is a racing fan first and foremost. He’s also a forward thinker, which is one of the reasons I enjoy talking to him so much about the state of the industry. For the final written piece in our Innovators in Racing series, I had the chance to sit down with Rich and chat about his current role at LTN and the state of racing in general.
How did you get involved in racing in the first place?
I was born and bred in Astoria, Queens, New City York. My dad was a racing fan, I found myself at an early age, before I was legal to wager finding myself in the local OTB and trying to cash tickets like everyone else. The good old-fashioned way, colors and names, but later in life learned how to read the Form, found the math intriguing, found my way to different disciplines of handicapping.
How did you go about that?
I started reading books, wound up finding the old Sartin guys, how they tear apart times and fractions and try to drive all kinds of things about pace and stuff like that and I followed that. Even for a while I made my own software commercially, put it out commercially to take apart races, model them, you could call it early AI. This was going back 15 years or so. I am still a recreational programmer. I enjoy the puzzles you find within writing code and I think it marries itself really well to handicapping data because you have this voluminous amount of information that you really have to make sense of and when you apply your own programming style to that data, you find outcomes that other people don’t. I definitely enjoyed that, I just don’t have the time for that anymore because I work on this stuff all day professionally so I have to find different ways to feed my handicapping interests. I don’t make my software anymore, but I have interests in some of the software products out there and different kinds of ways to look at handicapping data, I just find it all very, very interesting.
How did you get involved with LTN Global, working on the production and content side in horse racing?
I was working in TV and I got interested in trying to understand how television production works and how to put together compelling television production for a sporting event. Fast forward, I ended up becoming COO for an events company that led me to LTN and started talking to the team at LTN. They were doing all kinds of things in horse racing but I am not sure if there was a horse racing expert on staff. We provide a landscape of video services for broadcasters, distributors, producers, anybody that’s basically creating or moving content from one place to another place anywhere around the world. We have a sub-second network that allows you to take video which is basically big data in a big pipe and has to be compressed and it’s difficult to move on a terrestrial network from one place to another. The whole world has moved from using satellites as this means to get this live event from one place to another, now using terrestrial Internet protocol based networks. I think our business needs better ways to do things with video, including video quality, getting video to the right places. Broadcasters want to show US racing but they want it very fast and they need it in a low latency format, they need it high quality meaning high definition with as little to no artifacts as possible, matching the original production.
You also produce content as well. Tell us about that.
We bring a brand of production that is unique to sporting events. Instead of bringing a whole team in the truck and trotting everybody out to a particular facility, what we like to do is bring a smaller truck, bring cameras, people that need to man cameras and basically film the event itself. We take all of that video, we bring it back to a central location, our production studio is in suburbs of Kansas City, where we have a great team of people who work on all kinds of sporting events all day long, assembling these shows basically doing the production, direction, the audio, the switching, the graphics, the data integration. You don’t have to do it on site, and I think the internet has afforded us that luxury of being able to have very high quality people do these things in a centralized place, and the fact that LTN has these transport products the sub-second moving of video as a powerful tool these two capabilities give us the ability to produce great live content but do it centrally from the location where we can have all of our expert people do it.
What other TV coverage have you worked on with LTN Global?
All kinds of things. We have a strong focus on college sports. A lot of college football, college basketball. Things like volleyball, anything collegiate you see on some of the prime networks, there is a really good chance there is an LTN crew there. There is a good chance we are producing that out of a pod in Kansas City. We’re involved in entertainment, a lot of that stuff is hard to talk about but you’ll see us out there on some of the shows that people compete on and maybe are remote for part of the pandemic. I think the pandemic brought a great focus on what it means to have very low latency, two way video on the entertainment program so you may have seen people competing, singing or other talents were they are sitting from their homes and there are judges at their homes too and they were able to sync up a live video and have this two way conversation, we helped with that. We do some game show stuff, just anything in the production landscape where we can add a lot of value with the kind of product and the centralization that we have.
What do you see as the biggest issue with current simulcast feeds? What could be done better?
When I think about our game and the beauty and the majesty of it I get disheartened when I turn on a simulcast signal and I see that the simulcast signal is still in Standard Definition and it’s got that grainy look. We should all be dissatisfied with that look. It doesn’t stand up well against other sporting events and other things that could take people’s attention as we look in this world and notice the state change for sports betting. We are going to be under competition and I work on sports betting so I understand the landscape, but as a fan and having an affinity for this game, I think that competition we are going face is going to be serious and I think that the video component has as much to say about what we think about our game as anything. When we have a broadcast that’s in SD it just shows maybe our product needs an upgrade. I think when you looked at it 10 years ago, the upgrade to high definition was an expensive proposition. Racetracks had to look and decide if they had the capital wherewithal to do that. But today, they don’t have to do that. We can come in there and basically provide cameras and basically everything else. All of the infrastructure they were buying on the capital side previously, they don’t have to buy that anymore. They could use our infrastructure, create a program and from an expense point of view I don’t think there is any reason not to do it. As I talk to race tracks and I talk to them all the time, I try to drive home that what you think it’s going to take to move to HD is much different than the reality because the technology has caught up. Now is a great time to move your product into a much better visual space and get better distribution. I can’t speak for people like TVG and some of the other broadcasters, but I am going to assume that your product looks better when it’s broadcast on somebody else’s channel. I can imagine that I can say definitively that has had an effect on some of the racetracks that we produce, very important component to driving loyalty in handle and you want more people watching your content.
What other innovations do you see coming in the broadcasting of horse racing?
Looking at the sports betting world, I could see the emergence of sportsbooks. Sort of like you see in the UK but more destined for food and beverage type places. Where you could watch a game in a sports bar and bet on it. I also look at how I do this all the time, I go into Buffalo Wild Wings or sports bar and take pictures. I try to understand how they are feeding their programs through TVs and I see this world where you are gonna have all kinds of sports and it’s not just gonna be the big four, it’s going to be a lot of the niche sports that people are just going to watch because they have wagered on them. And then you have horse racing, that sport that goes off every couple of minutes. Filling in every gap you have.
Here’s the problem. I have 24 TVs, how many of those are going to be horse racing in a Buffalo Wild Wings or a sportsbook, probably not that many. The biggest change we are going to see is that this content be channelized and possibly white labeled more for those kinds of destinations. When I say white labeled meaning it might have it a brand, TVG does a great job and TVG is the prime distributor of horse racing over cable systems and satellite systems and they can’t get to every race every time. So maybe you see a world with a created channel that’s white labeled for the particular sports betting institution and they are curating themselves what they want you to see, what they want you to bet on and making the most of the channel space that you are provided in those particular destinations. I hope that makes a lot of sense, that is basically utilizing your shelf space for optimum playability.
What else can be done to expand the appeal of horse racing in a sports betting world?
I think in terms of attracting fans, I think both national broadcasts do a great job of trying to explain the game and trying to explain the wager to customers. I think it has to start with data, these players who stumble upon our game they need to know a little bit about the game, a little bit about how to wager on the game and hopefully they have a friend or mentor who could help them do both of those and help them understand it on another level. These national broadcasts do that for them, they take the job of that mentor for those new people coming into the game. I do like that idea of a family of four going to the track or friends of four going to the track, pooling their money together whether it is $20 a man or $100 a man and trying to build some tickets and trying to have some fun.
We’re always hammering on about the importance of our sport providing basic data for free.
Maybe the industry takes a different look at that at some point and says the best way to get new fans is to put data in their hands. It’s a barrier to entry for some of those people. I have to go pay for that? I understand why they do that because there is a cost in collecting that but maybe the times will modulate and people will look at these business models differently and underwrite the costs of that kind of stuff. That part of the world is innovating. You have some of the horse identification and timing products that are coming out and they are getting better all the time and I believe that data when that’s available is going to open up a realm of possibilities for people who do handicapping and do try to figure these things out.
What’s the best way for people to get in touch with you?
We are at LTNGlobal.com and my email address is richard.rosa@LTNglobal.com