Interesting read over at the Pull the Pocket blog titled "Racing on Television: Why doesn't it work better"
The author gives valid reasons as to limited ratings on Kentucky Derby Prep televised races. He surmises that getting over 1 million people to tune into a Derby prep on television where they don't know the horses, the protagonists change, and they can't even gamble on a gambling outcome, in a gambling sport, seems to be a fundamental barrier to success.
I also would add two more reasons to the limited ratings:
1. Watching sports via traditional cable subscription (some of the Derby Prep races were on the cable only NBC Sports Network) is down overall as US Households are learning to cut the cord and watch sports via other mediums. The # of US Households that have cut out cable TV from their homes is up 3 million since 2007. Also watching sports via the internet, Smartphone or simply "following" the event via a Twitter feed is more interesting to some, particularly those under the age of 30.
2. Except for the actual Kentucky Derby, which draws in many casual fans, the Derby preps are watched mainly by serious fans/horseplayers and those people are ensconced in the habit of "watching" racing via the internet where they also can bet on it at the same time through the various betting account websites. People are used to watching via their regular avenues-that being TVG, HRTV, a betting account video, or following via Twitter, and not on a Network.
I love watching the races in high quality HD, which NBC Sports Network provides, but since I also bet on the Derby Prep races, I usually do what I normally do, that being, I use my I Pad or Laptop to log on to my NYRA Rewards betting account, place my bet and follow from there on the live video feed. Breaking habits for just a few weeks every year is not easy.
The Derby Prep TV ratings will continue to be a low number, especially with the growth of people actually following and watching the race on their Smartphone's, laptops, tablets, Twitter Feed and TVG/HRTV, and not on traditional network TV anymore.