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Friday, March 6, 2009

When Free Isn’t Free, or One More Nail in Racing’s Coffin

A rant is on the agenda this morning. For well over a year, I have taken the time to wade through every trainer’s and racing’s stable’s website that provides free Brisnet past performances, and post links to stakes races on my blog and on the TBA homepage. About six months ago, Patrick over at Handride developed a search engine that did the same thing, yet much more efficiently, and the TBA homepage has carried it since.

What did we, individually or as a group, gain from this endeavor? Nothing more than the satisfaction of giving people easier access to information already freely available on the internet. There was no financial gain either on our behalf or anyone else. Yet, Brisnet has developed a way to block us from providing those links which are still readily available if you go directly to the stables’ websites and wade through them yourselves.

Why? In a time when handle is falling like a rock, much like the stock market and the economy as a whole, why not allow bettors the easiest possible access to information that is—let me repeat—is already free. It is on the web. How are the stables posting the information harmed? They are providing for clients information about their own horses, and they have decided to pay whatever fee Brisnet chooses to allow for open retrieval. It’s no skin off their nose if we bloggers post the links.

Obviously the issue comes down to one word: greed. Brisnet doesn’t want you to have this information for free, despite that fact that is already out there. They want you to pay through the nose for past performances, regardless of the “big picture” that suggests that people increasingly won’t as economic conditions continue to deteriorate, and fewer and fewer people are interested in horse racing. Rather than believe allowing free access to the limited (and it is limited) number of free past performances just might demonstrate to potential new customers how valuable their product is, they would rather continue to set up barriers.

How myopic.


Eddie D. said...

Past performances are intellectual property, and just because they are free on XYZ's site does not mean that you have the right to redistribute that information.

It's "free" to listen to baseball games on the radio, but try streaming what you're listening to on your personal website, and you'll have a problem.

I'm not privy to the arrangements stables have made with BRIS to offer free PPs of their horse's races, but there might be a marketing fee involved.

Valerie said...

We are not redistributing information; it is not posted in toto on our websites. We are simply guiding people to the link where it is available. To compare providing people with a link to free information and streaming a live feed of a baseball game on a personal webiste is like comparing apples and oranges. Not the same thing at all.

As I said, I stand by my argument. The powers-that-be in horse racing are killing this game by not seeing the big picture. It's a damn shame.

alan said...

Good analogy by Eddie D. What would be a nail in racing's coffin would be if companies like BRIS and DRF had no incentive to create the best past performances possible because everyone was getting them for free. (sorry Patrick) I mean, it was fun while it lasted, but I think BRIS had every right to do what they could to take them down. And as noted, you can still get them if you try hard enough.

alan said...

>>We are not redistributing information; it is not posted in toto on our websites. We are simply guiding people to the link where it is available.

Valerie - With all due respect, that's simply not true. Maybe that's the case now, but we were indeed "redistributing" the information by compiling disparate past performances from far flung websites into separate race day packages.

Valerie said...

I’m intrigued. Why is the live broadcast analogy a good one?

Valerie said...

As a member of Twinspires, I can download Brisnet past performances for free as long as I bet on at least one race in that entire card. Obviously, someone recognizes a correlation between providing the information for free and getting people to wager. Maybe my argument is not articulate enough, but I stand by the idea that there is a lack of vision here, by nit picking about material that, again, is already available online free.

Amateurcapper said...


BRIS "allowed" this information on the TBA site. Until a recent advertising change on the TBA homepage, this site was a free introduction to their PP's. I'm not sure how much new business this created, but it certainly didn't stand to lose them money. Now there is a Formulator advertisement that links to their competitor's PP's.

Business is business. TBA made a decision, BRIS countered with theirs. The end result was foreseeable.

Keith-TripleDeadHeat said...

This is one of those legal issues resolved to the letter of the law that does no one any favours.

I'm of two minds on this. One, If I am offering something for free, I'd like people to collect it from MY site.

Two, if it's free, then the PPs offered provide much the same marketing opportunity anyway.

I guess it's their ball and they can take it home if they want to.

alan said...

Valerie -

Here in New York, I can listen to the Mets and the Yanks, for free. If it's at night and with a little effort and an old style analog transistor, I may easily be able to also listen to the Red Sox, Phils, Orioles, Nationals, and Blue Jays. If I'm upstate and it's a really clear night, I might also be able to listen to the Indians, White Sox, Cubs, Brewers, and Braves. Hell, long ago when I was at Union in Schenectady, we'd get wasted and listen to the late great Dan Kelly broadcast Blues' hockey on KMOX...where I could also hear Jack Buck and Mike Shannon do the Cardinals. Whatsmore, given the preponderance of unlimited phone plans these days, if I had a friend on the west coast, I could call and have him tune in the Dodgers or Giants for me too. All for free.

However, for example, WFAN, the Mets' flagship, is streamed on its own website and on ITunes; but when there's a game you can only hear substitute programming instead. Why? Because Major League Baseball packages its broadcast streams and sells them for a quite reasonable $14.95 per season. Maybe not a perfect analogy, but a pretty damn good one I think.

I can understand why people are disappointed, frustrated, and angry about this development with BRIS. And I feel bad for those who honestly can't afford to buy the past performances. But to call them stupid? Or greedy? C'mon, this is their business! It would be one thing if we were talking about free pp's for some stakes races, but there were many occasions on which most if not all the races on a given card were available....especially on the weekend days when BRIS would hope to do their best business. This is America, and capitalism...I don't know what you expect. It's their business model; they own the intellectual property, pay handsomely I'm sure to put together the why would you expect them to sit and watch their precious commodity get given away in a convenient package at a single site? How does that help their business model? Does it create new customers? Generate good will? From the reaction I've seen, I'd guess that the answer to those two questions is no!

tvnewsbadge said...

However, for example, WFAN, the Mets' flagship, is streamed on its own website and on ITunes; but when there's a game you can only hear substitute programming instead. Why? Because Major League Baseball packages its broadcast streams and sells them for a quite reasonable $14.95 per season. Maybe not a perfect analogy, but a pretty damn good one I think."

I'm a little on the dumb side and clearly don't know what "past performance" means. Are you saying that if I wanted to access the stats from these games once they have been played (or "past performances" , I'd have to pay for them???

Like I say, I'm pretty stupid, but it sure doens't sound to me that Valerie is talking about live streaming audio and/or video of the races as they happen, which is what you're talking about with this baseball stuff... I don't see the connection.


Tony said...

They should also legalize Pot and sell it only at racetracks!

Valerie said...

It’s obvious we’ll have to agree to disagree on this, but please don’t put words in my mouth. To be completely accurate, at no time I did not call them stupid so to imply that I did is patently unfair. I did say their motivation was greed, which if you wish to transpose from a noun to an adjective, and interpret as “greedy,” that’s fine. What term would be more accurate for wanting to be paid for something that they, of their own inclination, are providing for free, or, at the very least, have provided to another entity for a fee and that entity posts it on the Internet without any barriers to retrieving it? If the material is only meant for a specific audience, then make it password protected so everyone in the world can’t access it. Otherwise, don’t complain when people find a way to retrieve the material more easily.

It’s not like I’m buying a copy of the DRF, scanning the past performances and then posting them online for others to see. The material is available online for free, without any passwords, or other layers to impede access. So, now people can simply go to the trainers’ websites and get the information themselves rather than clicking on a link posted on my blog or the TBA homepage. Fundamentally, what has changed? Are people who previously acquired the information without cost unable to do so? No, it will just take a little additional work, but they will still be able to find the same material at no cost. Nothing more or less is being “given away.” It’s just a matter of convenience and good will.

I still fail to completely understand how comparing a vehicle that simply provides statistics to an actual live, produced product is comparable. A more accurate comparison to the live (or even recorded) steaming of a baseball game would be live (or recorded) racing, which is also available online for a fee—unless you access sites like CalRacing or a wagering site like Twinspires, or even YouTube. The argument starts to fall apart there, obviously, but that’s more likely due to racing’s lack of a central authority, unlike the monolithic MLB.

Still, that aside, I’m not arguing that Bris doesn’t have the right to sell its product and make a profit. God forbid, that’s what this country is all about, regardless of the consequences upon the bigger picture! What I will continue to bitch about—just because it’s my blog and I can bitch about anything I want to—is the lack of vision displayed in this instance by Bloodstock Research Information Services, a subsidiary of Churchill Downs, Inc. who also owns Twinspires who sponsors the Older Horse category on the TBA homepage. Is the real issue exclusivity in advertising on our homepage? By also linking to DRF’s Formulator, that somehow negates a consumer in a free market economy from choosing the product that provides the best value for them?

I can’t believe I wasted this much time even thinking or writing about this. I honestly could care less if they want to block links to the information; I will just make the rounds on the various sites and get what I need, as I’m sure others will. Linking was merely a gesture on my part to present to fans information already available to them, an act of goodwill, hoping that some would actually give a damn about this sport. That’s it—I’m done with this topic. "Thank you, Cleveland."

Valerie said...

Argh! Make that "at no time did I call them stupid"

alan said...

Val - Did not at all intend to put words in your mouth; I hate when that happens myself. I was reacting to certain others who used that specific word, sorry for the misunderstanding.

Nora said...

Valerie, I agree with you and your reasoning. I don't see why Brisnet would have a problem with you linking people to them for something they are already giving away for free. I also don't see how the exposure can hurt them or take away from thier business. Horse racing, and those who make thier living off of racing need to expand thier horizon.