Channeling YouTube

Not long after the Kentucky Derby, I was putting together a post about jockey John Velazquez, and, in search of embeddable video of the race, I went to YouTube, expecting to find an official version made available by NBC, by Churchill Downs, or by the NTRA.

In some ways, I’ve gotten spoiled: the NTRA, Breeders’ Cup, and NYRA all have YouTube channels, and in most cases, I can find an authorized version of stakes races to embed. For reasons of both ethics and quality (the authorized versions generally look and sound better), where possible, I like to use versions of the race provided by the organizations responsible for producing it.

Imagine then, my surprise and dismay when I discovered that the only videos of this year’s Derby on YouTube were from viewers and users, not from anyone actually involved in producing the event.

An inquiry to Churchill Downs yielded the suggestion that the NBC contract precluded the track from uploading the video (though CDI did upload the 2009 Derby, complete with peacock logo); an NBC representative told me that the network doesn’t upload its sporting events to Youtube because it wants to maximize traffic to its own website. NBC did provide me with the code to embed the official version, which began with a brief ad.

While I can understand the desire to drive traffic to one’s own website (guilty here as charged), keeping race replays at the NBC site instead of on YouTube seems to me like an incredible missed opportunity, given the burgeoning relationship between racing, NBC, and Versus. Let’s face it: no matter how high-profile NBC is, when people want race replays, they’re going to to go to YouTube, not to the network site.

For several reasons, I hope that NBC/Versus will take advantage of its new role in broadcasting racing and create a YouTube channel dedicated to the sport, with clear benefits to both the consumer and the producer.

Arguably, having a presence on YouTube will bring more eyeballs to NBC coverage than keeping the races on NBC.com: when you search on YouTube for “2011 Kentucky Derby,” the authorized, NBC version should be the first to appear. When I search YouTube for “2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic,” the BCWorldChampionships version heads the list. When I search for “2010 Travers Stakes,” I first see the NYRA video.

But when I search YouTube for “2011 Kentucky Derby”…I get nothing from anyone who had a hand is producing the event or broadcast. And because other, unauthorized versions of the race do appear, no one’s going to say, “Hm, well, the official NBC version isn’t here…let me trot over to NBC.com and see if it’s there.” Viewers will watch or embed the unauthorized version that’s there and carry on their merry way.

If I skip YouTube and type into a search engine, “video 2011 Kentucky Derby,” NBC doesn’t even make the first page, while unauthorized YouTube versions of the race do.

Last night, I went to NBC.com to try to find the video of this year’s Derby. After trying a variety of paths (going to the video page, going to the sports page, typing into the search engine)…nothing. Even those of us who want to go to NBC.com to watch a race replay cannot, it seems, easily do so.

With exclusive rights to the Triple Crown races and this year’s Saratoga meet, NBC/Versus has a terrific opportunity to create a profile and presence that will link racing to its brand, and vice versa (vice Versus?).  If revenue is a priority, I’m happy to give up a few seconds to watch an ad if it means that I can watch a better quality, authorized version of the race.

In many ways, I’m about as old media as they come: I care about copyright and about remunerating the creators and producers of an event and a broadcast. I also care about being easily able to share racing clips and to watch replays of important races. I’m eager to see NBC and Versus step forward and create a relationship with YouTube. The company is already willingly giving away its product and making it available for dissemination; I hope that it will go one step further and put that product in a place where people where will see the race and will see NBC’s brand, instead of hiding it in the hope of driving traffic to its site.

19 thoughts on “Channeling YouTube

  1. Do you know if NYRA had to strike the same deal with NBC for the Saratoga broadcasts?

    I’m very happy with the google search results for “2011 Kentucky Oaks Replay” and pretty happy with “2011 Preakness Replay” 🙂

  2. Good question, Dana…not sure, but I’ll ask this weekend. CDI didn’t confirm that restriction, for the record.

    Haven’t checked the results for the two races you named, but I suspect I have a good idea where I’d land…

  3. Not to mention NBC didn’t bother to even broadcast Paddy’s race. Can you tell I’m a little annoyed by that? 🙂

  4. NYRA has the largest collection of stakes video on file just sitting there. Lets get going NYRA…put them on YouTube.

  5. Here in the UK neither of our dedicated racing channels showed the Preakness (Racing UK showed the Derby, and At The Races shows NYRA so will presumably show the Belmont) so I went to the NBC Sports site for the live stream, only to be told it wasn’t available in my area. I’d like to know what NBC Affiliate I was supposed to watch the race on! I tuned into a radio broadcast stream instead. Then for the replay, the NBC site was also blocking me. About 45 minutes later I watched the Preakness on the Thoroughbred Times.

  6. Jason Moran,

    One very fair question that demands at least a partial answer:

    Around 1970, the NYRA upgraded its Film Patrol equipment from 16-mm celuloid film to then-state of the art videotape, videotaping camera equipment and a videotape studio at each of its tracks, Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga — this was before our dedicated and mobile “closed circuit television trucks,” that began about 1980 to service each track during its season, and that currently provide the same services.

    We were very proud of our entry into the high-tech media world of videotaping for quicker steward adjudications and what we thought was as permanent a medium as film. In less than twenty years, however, our videotapes of races dating from the early 1970s had degraded so badly that some were no longer viewable, including all our Secretariat races of 1972 and 1973.

    Unless NYRA has found someone since I retired in 1996 with a process that can recover degraded videotapes, I’m afraid any race we see now from that era was recorded on film by some other entity than NYRA.

    As to more recent stakes race footage I’m sure NYRA records to DVD or better, and is looking into YouTube distribution as well as other outlets as we write.

  7. This is what is killing Horse Racing

    Why NOT but these races on YOUTUBE,

    I think the old foggies in Horse racing don’t even know what YOUTUBE is,

    They are still waiting for all the fans to come back to there empty stands so the they can GOUGE them on Admission, Programs, seats, parking, food

    Races tracks have never figured out they now have to compete for the betting dollar,

    and they are running the Racing industry into the toilet,
    everybody says day-in-day-out I can bet the horses on my computer much cheaper then going to the track.

    So I stay home, Horse Racing needs to give value added to there on site bettors,

    but they have NO clue they should even be doing this, DUH

  8. It is a shame much of the footage NYRA shot in the 1970’s deteriorated to where it can no longer be used. Fortunately, many of the big races were on the networks and/or on WOR-TV (Channel 9), so there is that footage that can be used.

    As far as the lack of NBC coverage on YouTube, I believe that has to do with YouTube’s owners and Comcast-NBC not being able to work out a deal. What should be done in that regard is perhaps for such events to also be available live or on tape on Hulu (which I believe Comcast-NBC partially owns), which would expose such specials to a greater audience.

    On another front, this past Tuesday we lost legendary CNBC anchor Mark Haines, who was so beloved there that every single person at CNBC who was on air (and many who weren’t) all either wore flag ties or flag scarves in some form to honor Mr. Haines this past Friday (Mr. Haines always wore a flag tie on Fridays to honor those serving our country). This on the surface doesn’t seem like a big deal for the Sport of Kings until you realize that Horse Racing was one of Mr. Haines’ loves.

    In retrospect, NBC missed out on a golden opportunity to have Mr. Haines cross over from CNBC to NBC Sports for Horse Racing coverage, in particular the Triple Crown event and (through 2005 before it moved from NBC to ESPN) Breeders’ Cup. He probably would have relished being a part of NBC’s coverage of the Triple Crown in particular, especially 2002-’04 when NBC had the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown was on the line in each of those years.

    That to me was a real opportunity that was missed.

  9. Your mistake is searching for “authorized versions” You’ll wait until you’re blue in the face most of the time before any of those show up on youtube. There’s plenty of excellent footage uploaded by fans of the Derby, your unwillingness to use it is a tad shortsighted.

    Even the entities you mentioned, NTRA, Breeders’ Cup, and NYRA are lackadaisical in posting in a timely fashion. Timely meaning shortly after a race is run, when fans are searching for it.

    Youtube as a whole is a complete lost opportunity for racetracks. Youtube reaches more people than the powers that be can wrap their minds around. More people stroll through youtube every hour than visit the NYRA family of websites in an entire year. Racetracks lack the interest and or manpower to utilize youtube to it’s full potential. I would not expect it to change.

    • Patrick, I don’t think my desire to use authorized versions is either a mistake or short-sighted. I’m not a fan of boot-legging or piracy, though at least in this, the folks uploading video without permission don’t seem to be profiting from it, though I can’t say for sure.

      Walt, the person that I spoke with at NBC did not indicate that an inability to work out a deal was the reason the footage was available.

      Whobet: Many of the people in horse racing know exactly what YouTube is; NYRA, the NTRA, and the Breeders’ Cup use it regularly. This particular issue is a network/contractual issue – you may well have a point with some of your gripes, but they’re not particularly related to NBC putting the Derby on YouTube.

      Thanks for the information, Marshall; NYRA does put up most of its stakes races on YouTube, and started doing that last year…for which many of are grateful!

      Sounds hugely frustrating, Mary…but I’m sure Thoroughbred Times was happy to be the recipient of your eyeballs! I had no idea that a whole channel there would show only NYRA races.

  10. Teresa, you can’t pick and choose when to be a fan of “Piracy and Boot-legging” Terms which are wildly inappropriate.

    Your recent post contained a video of Afleet Alex winning the Preakness, a video that certainly is not authorized.

    I saw you were searching for videos of Open Mind and Sky Beauty, how long do you think you’ll have to wait until you see authorized versions of their races appear on youtube?

    Gander at the Youtube channels titled cf1970 and Dingerz, should they be allowed to exist in your opinion? Or does it fall under piracy and boot-legging?

    • You are right, Patrick, that these is inconsistency in my approach, which I acknowledged in the post when I wrote, “For reasons of both ethics and quality (the authorized versions generally look and sound better), where possible [emphasis added], I like to use versions of the race provided by the organizations responsible for producing it.” And in most cases, where possible, I try to contact the producers to see if I can get an authorized copy. I admit that when I can’t, I don’t always observe what I would consider best practices here.

      As for Sky Beauty and Open Mind, no versions of their races, authorized or not, are available online as far as I can tell.

      I’m interested in why you think “piracy and boot-legging” are inappropriate terms…because the people uploading aren’t making a profit? And look: I get why people upload these videos, and we’re lucky that we get to see them, no question. I also get that tracks likely don’t have the human or financial resources to go to their archives and get all the past races up. The point of my post was not to focus on what hasn’t been done in the past, but what I hope can be done going forward.

  11. Mr. Cassidy. Thank you for the explanation. That explains why the 73 Belmont footage has the appearance of being 20 years older than the 73 Preakness which is outstanding. The demand for these races are pretty high in the racing fan world. I myself love to watch the old Breeder’s Cup races on Youtube as well as the preps (mostly NYRA races) that led up to those respective races. As for people uploading their network coverage up onto Youtube? I think they are doing the business a great service, IMO. It’s free advertisement for the tracks. It makes the product accessible to millions of people. But that is only my opinion. Interestingly enough, just to point out stats on Youtube. The 1989 Classic (labeled “Race of the Decade”) has been viewed almost 165,000 times with still people bickering about which horse was better…while the 1989 Travers…well, it’s not on there. That’s the point of this entire argument. A demand is out there that has not been met by the industry.

  12. Teresa, I believe “piracy and boot-legging” in this instance are extraordinarily heavy handed terms and out of place. If racetracks were losing revenue or business due to the actions of fans on youtube, I’d say the heavy handed language would be appropriate. I don’t think I need to tell you that exposure is a good thing. Youtube provides more than any racetrack website could hope to attract.

    If the powers that be lack the ability and or willingness to supply videos that there is demand to see, why should they not be posted? Should races wither away and die from memory because the racetracks can’t and or won’t do it?

    As I asked earlier, how long do you think you’ll need to wait to see the races of Open Mind and Sky Beauty posted by the racetracks they ran at? I’ll answer it, you’ll wait for the rest of your life and not see it.

    People should be encouraged to post their races, especially the older ones to youtube. Usage of the language of boot-legging and piracy really does nothing more than to needlessly scare them into not doing so.

    For now, my advice would be to reserve those heavy handed terms for people who are causing financial damages to racetracks through their actions.

    • Fair points all, Patrick. I didn’t write about what racetracks and racing organizations are and aren’t doing, except to praise recent efforts to get high profile races on YouTube. I’m writing about one network’s decision, and that network – NBC – made clear in our conversations that this IS about revenue and advertising dollars (as determined by page views and site visits), and that’s why NBC sports events aren’t on YouTube. I also inferred that the network does indeed consider unauthorized versions of uploaded video as piracy; that term was used in our conversation.

      What racetracks and racing organizations can and can’t do is an equally interesting but quite different topic. Thanks for continuing the conversation…I tried to keep my focus here pretty narrow, but as you and Jason and others have brought up, discussing how to make races – current and historical – available to the public can take us in myriad directions.

  13. You’ve brought up a very good point–they dropped the ball big time. What’s the point of having technology and instant media when the people who PAID to be able to broadcast it aren’t even sharing it after the fact?

    I also want to comment that it was just about the worst coverage I’ve ever seen. Not only did they not warn the viewers about the graphic breakdowns shot for the Rosie Napravnik story, they never made mention of why they chose those scenes to my knowledge, even if I can surmise that they were attempting to show the public how tough it is for riders, and that women are no exception? Or am I assuming too much? I can only imagine anyone sitting in their family room for an afternoon of racing when out of the blue two tragic breakdowns in a row. Now, perhaps we can hope that the untrained eye didn’t quite catch what they’d just seen…but I’m afraid too many were able to see it. And turn away just in time. What if they were watching with children? What if THAT was their one and only relationship with horse racing, only to be sickened by what they just saw? I would tend to believe that a good sized first time audience will not be coming back for more.

    I also really disliked the dozen different views they showed during the live running. Blimp shot, pan shot, head on, 1/2 screen, my GOD how does a person focus? How do they learn WHAT to watch? It was horrendous for me, and I’ve been watching 35 years! I can only imagine how unappealing it was for a novice.

    So not only can we NOT watch archived racing, we also have to put up with incredibly bad live video production by people who have no interest on what the public might want to see, and how to see it. I swear, cage fighting video production has more thought involved. That’s just frightening.

  14. Lisa, I didn’t catch any of the broadcast. I will say that any version of the race that I saw – NBC video after the race, track feed – made it nearly impossible to follow.

    I can’t comment on any of the features during the program…but I do think that NBC is interested in what people want to say…but maybe we’re not the people who bring the eyeballs? Maybe they’re appealing to a different segment?

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