Elevating Horse Racing: Hieronymus Took Keeneland's Broadcasting From The Bottom To The Top - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Elevating Horse Racing: Hieronymus Took Keeneland’s Broadcasting From The Bottom To The Top

G.D. Hieronymus

In the early 2000s, hosting the Breeders' Cup seemed an unattainable ambition for Keeneland. Like many racetracks, they lagged behind in broadcast quality and needed to improve venue infrastructure. But in a dramatic turnaround in 2005, Keeneland won the first of seven International Simulcast Awards for outstanding simulcast signal. In 2015, Keeneland became the home of what's widely acknowledged as the best Breeders' Cup ever.

The year 2000, when G.D. Hieronymus joined Keeneland as Director of Broadcast Services, marked a turning point for the racetrack's broadcast department. Under Hieronymus' leadership, Keeneland became the most technology-advanced broadcast facility in horse racing across the US.

Leading the broadcast signal innovation

Keeneland's broadcast signal struggled with average standard definition (SD) quality. In 2000, Keeneland approached Hieronymus, then Vice President of Production at Hammond Communications, and tasked him with transforming its simulcast broadcast to stand out from the crowd.

Hieronymus believed in the power of delivering a compelling fan experience both on-track and in-broadcast, and was committed to upping Keeneland's game.

“Compared to other sports, horse racing has been miles off delivering great broadcast coverage and an engaging at-venue and off-track viewing experience. At Keeneland, we were determined to change that with the right technology,” Hieronymus said.

Keeneland was ahead of its time in recognizing that network air time relied on the racetracks delivering a high-quality broadcast signal. To meet this goal, Hieronymus concentrated on making Keeneland the first full-HD racetrack in North America. The Keeneland team upgraded the camera equipment and control room, dramatically improving the racetrack's simulcast signal and distribution. They were also one of the first racetracks to include a TVG-dedicated position in the control room, helping increase their TVG air time.

“We were committed to making the networks' job easier and delivering the signal quality they needed to make Keeneland look good. We've built our control room on this premise,” Hieronymus said.

The Breeders' Cup milestone

During Hieronymus' service, Keeneland hosted the Breeders' Cup World Championships in 2015 and 2020. The horse racing industry still praises the 2015 competition for its great planning and execution despite difficult weather conditions at the time.

In 2020, the Breeders' Cup returned to Keeneland under even more challenging conditions. With COVID-19 protocols limiting at-venue audience attendance, the virtual viewing experience became even more important. This was the perfect opportunity for Hieronymus and his team to revolutionize fan engagement at Keeneland.

“As a horse racing fan and wagerer, I've always felt the viewers were at the mercy of technical directors, who typically only focused on the top horses in the race,” he said. “This meant we hardly got the chance to see other horses during pre-race. I wanted to change that.”

Keeneland, NBC, and Breeders' Cup deployed over 80 television cameras covering the event, but Hieronymus wanted to take the fan experience a step further. Together with the Breeders' Cup and LTN Global, he delivered the Contender Cam, the ISO coverage of every horse in every race. The Contender Cam provided 14 individual views of each horse, from when the horse entered the paddock to when it entered the starting gate. This footage of individual horses, available on the Breederscup.com app, Player Show, and NBC, enabled fans and bettors to see their preferred horses up close before placing their bets — replicating and enhancing the in-person fan experience.

HD TV Renovation/Upgrade. Photo Left to right Lauren Warren, Philp Richardson, GD Hieronymus, and Curt Toumanian from Pegasus Communications, Inc.

The Breeders' Cup also featured 360° VR technology, providing an immersive live fan experience of the walking ring and Winner's Circle, and jockey cams allowing fans to experience live view from up to two jockeys in each race. In addition, the Breeders' Cup deployed a 100-miles-per-hour BatCam that provided dynamic aerial views of the races.

Becoming a world-class technology-driven leader for Thoroughbred sales

Aside from a top racetrack, Keeneland is also the Thoroughbred industry's leading auction house, with the most bloodstock going through auctions. Hieronymus and his team introduced a technology infrastructure to optimize the sales operation and  buyer interaction and attract more interest worldwide. From a new control room to touchscreen devices that share data and information when horses come in and are integrated with the sales systems, Keeneland has led sales innovation.

In 2020, Keeneland introduced remote bidding to compensate for the pandemic-induced travel restrictions and enable more buyers from across the world to take part in digital auction services. The sales team offered sellers video opportunities to show their horses well in advance and increase bids. 

Every racetrack can champion horse racing experience 

Keeneland's journey has demonstrated that nothing is impossible when a track's broadcast department is determined to innovate to deliver an outstanding fan experience. Starting with switching to HD and dramatically improving the signal quality, Hieronymus and his team made Keeneland the most innovative racetrack in the country — winning broadcast awards and setting the bar for Breeders' Cup production.

Hieronymus believes in driving fan engagement and creating new revenue opportunities through innovation. With the rest of the sports industry moving fast to 4K, 8K, and rich content formats, racetracks need to deliver a high-quality broadcast signal to compete. To claim a bigger share of the fast-growing sports wagering market, racetracks should create more opportunities for fan and player engagement — and data is a good way to achieve it.

Despite his retirement from Keeneland earlier this year, Hieronymus is still involved in numerous projects across the horse racing industry. Above all, he is on a mission.

“I really want to support all racetracks in raising the quality of their broadcast signal and help our industry compete with other sports head-on,” he said.

Rich Rosa is the Vice President of Business Development for Wagering and Simulcasting at LTN Global Communications. As LTN's horse racing industry lead, Rich partners with  tracks across the country to help them create high-quality productions and find new distribution outlets to raise their profile — and ultimately their wagering handle.  LTN offers centralized production and IP-based transport services to help tracks produce and/or distribute high-quality HD and 4K content.

About LTN Global

LTN® Global is a worldwide leader in video technology solutions for producers and distributors of broadcast-quality content. Built on the world's fastest and most reliable IP multicast network, LTN's universal media ecosystem unites modular services and integrates with other leading technologies to bring full-video-chain workflows, driving scale from creation and acquisition to monetization and delivery.

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