For as much media consumption as is available to us at any given point in time, it’s often disappointing to find few options when it comes to media geared toward equestrian sport enthusiasts. The sport’s airtime on mainstream channels isn’t much to speak of — most of the horse-driven content found on most channels in the U.S. is centered around racing.
But it’s UK-based Horse & Country that’s aiming to change that conversation, building its content platform around three main pillars of Community, Transformation and Inspiration. With a recent expansion into the U.S. market, the acquisition of EQ Sports Net and the formation of a partnership with the USEA and other equestrian membership organizations, Horse & Country has put itself front and center as the go-to source for equestrian entertainment.
It’s precisely what chairwoman and CEO Heather Killen, whose background includes time spent with Yahoo! expanding the brand’s global reach in the 1990s, envisioned when she took over the company in 2008. And though the early days of the acquisition were far from smooth, the brand has since implemented a successful switch from a cable and satellite delivered offering to the multi-platform subscription service it has become.
“We embarked on what has been quite a long, circuitous journey to where we are today, from being a single satellite channel to an international pay-TV channel,” Heather explained. “But now we have evolved further to offer live and on-demand content as well as linear channels, across a variety of digital platforms and streaming devices.”
Connecting with the equestrian audience was not, however, straightforward. Think about yourself as an equestrian: you’re discerning, and you have specific interests when it comes to horses. You most likely want to be inspired, but you aren’t necessarily going to watch a documentary all about horses (unless it’s narrated by David Attenborough, because he could narrate a fast-food menu and it’d be all I’d eat for a year, probably). You want to feel connected to people and riders you look up to. And you need to see those “heart-in-your-throat” moments of top-level sport.
This creates a unique challenge when it comes to creating a catalog of content that will resonate with the right group.
“Our vision is to create a space where people can come and see themselves reflected in the kind of content we have,” Heather said. “Our objective has always been to allow people to make the most of their lives with horses and do that across a variety of dimensions. To not just be a streaming service, but to address all those aspects of these lives people lead.”
To accomplish this, Horse & Country has built its content around three primary pillars:
Community: “People want to feel part of a community, even if it’s a micro or a niche community. Or even a niche within a niche. They want to feel connected to people they recognize and look up to.”
Transformation: “The ‘mud, sweat and tears’ that go into the transformation of themselves as riders and the transformation felt within their horses through training, growing and education. We want to provide content that’s accessible to riders at different levels, being careful not to alienate the more advanced or the just beginning rider.”
Inspiration: “Everyone wants to watch amazing journeys and performances. It’s the top level of the sport, the ‘heart-in-your-throat’ moments that we all need to see.”
“Going deep enough to really satisfy the needs of these individual micro-audiences is one of the big challenges,” Heather continued. “We’ve discovered that where we have success is when we really do understand our audience and give them what they want.”
Through its advancement to be a recognizable channel around the world, Horse & Country now has a broad international presence and has leaned heavily into the eventing space in particular with nearly 20 international four- and five-star level events streaming in 2021.
For her part, Heather says while horses came to her later in life, they’ve now taken up quite a good chunk of her time: she’s also gotten into breeding as she learned more about the horse world, running a full breeding operation in France that produces sporthorses for both amateurs and professionals. In that vein, she says her increased involvement has helped her learn more about the people she’s trying to reach with Horse & Country. “It’s all about closing that gap and enhancing the life you live with horses,” she explained. “I think if you can give people a useful and supportive environment, you can help grow the whole ecosystem.”
If you want to check out all that Horse & Country has to offer, you can learn more about the content library and subscription options here.