As Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense prepares to battle several familiar foes in Sat’s Preakness Stakes, rival horseracing nets TVG and HRTV are locked in a compelling duel of their own. And one cable industry source with intimate knowledge of both barns believes the fight may end in death. The latest salvo was issued Fri when TVG announced it has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against HRTV, net parent Magna Ent, and XPressBet, the wagering platform through which HRTV viewers may bet on horse races. TVG asserts in the complaint that the trio infringes on patents covering 2 features of interactive wagering systems—audio or video racing feeds and wagering on multiple tracks—and in turn seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief. "TVG has made numerous good faith efforts to engage Magna, HRTV and XpressBet in… licensing discussions, but to date, the defendants have been unwilling to license patents from us," said TVG general counsel John Hindman in a prepared statement. HRTV evp/GM Jim Bates and TVG svp/GM David Nathanson both declined to comment on the litigation, and calls to Magna were not returned. The aforementioned cable industry source said the filing is a defensive gambit by TVG to maintain relevancy amid its recent loss of broadcast/wagering rights to tracks operated by industry heavyweight Churchill Downs, including the Derby. "This is less about patents and more about the fact that TVG is in a fight for its very existence," said the source. TVG (approx 26mln HHs) is currently leading HRTV (approx 13mln) in the race for distribution, but Churchill’s acquisition of a 50% stake in HRTV (Cfax, 3/6) sets TVG up for a stretch fade. Churchill and Magna have placed a bid with the NY Racing Authority for exclusive rights covering state racetracks, including Belmont Park, which hosts the 3rd leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. If successful, the bid would grant the pair, and indirectly HRTV, firm control of the popular 3-race tour, as Magna owns Pimlico, site of the Preakness. As it stands now, TVG will be able to take wagers on this year’s Belmont Stakes after being shut out of the Derby and Preakness. Irrespective of future developments in this saga, the folks at TVG were likely rooting for Street Sense to win Sat in Baltimore. A victory could amplify interest in next month’s Belmont to ear-shattering decibels and allow TVG to cash in on fans’ fervor to see the first Triple Crown winner since ’78.

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