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Torrents, DRF Paywalls, Content and the Big Enchilada

Yesterday a study from the London School of Economics said that "Online Piracy does not hurt, but helps, the entertainment industry".

That probably makes little sense on the surface, but if one digs a little deeper, maybe it does make sense. Folks who try to get online content for free usually are fans who are engaged and use the medium to stay engaged. They see a free concert from someone, and then pay $300 to go to one. They see a grainy movie on a torrent, then buy the Blue Ray disc for their home theater, and so on. It can act as a conduit to spending real money.

Early this century, racing might've seen something similar happen. Online "pirates" who were paying nothing into the pools offered horse racing at a low price. Betfair, who was paying racetracks some commission, offered a low take, neat way to play through the exchange. These sites probably kept people engaged in racing. If there was a cap, like so many bookies offshore used as a protector to big losses (pick 6's were never allowed, for example, and in some places exactas and tris were capped at 100 or 200-1), this cap encouraged one to play into the pools. Betfair, who offers win only for the most part, was limited. You were watching a race, you could not get your price and you loved a couple of other horses for the super. You bet the super into the pools. You bet that helped the pools.

Which brings us to the DRF. This week they announced a paywall
  • DRF Plus will be available for a $10 monthly subscription price (discounted for longer term subscriptions), but will remain free for DRF Past Performance plan subscribers and for active DRFBets members.  Many content and community areas of the DRF.com site will remain free, including Entries and Results, general industry and breeding news, race recaps, and select columns and blogs. 
This is a little different, on the surface, in my opinion.
  • If tens of thousands of people find this content so compelling they will pay $120 a year and the DRF will make boatloads. 
  • If the content is good enough and the DRF uses this as a "you get everything for free if you use our ADW" it can be a conduit to new revenue.
With so much good content free on the Interweb, I don't think the first bullet is workable.

The second is really the big enchilada. TVG and HRTV and Twinspires offer free content, past performances and more to get you where they want you to go: Into their ADW's. That's where they make the big money. If the DRF can do similar, this process just might work.

Although people glow when a TV rating comes up big, or "Orb" trends on twitter, that brings almost no revenue to racing. We don't sell Todd Pletcher jerseys, and 99 out of 100 horse racing events are on television, and of those, only one set (the Triple Crown) brings revenue into the sport.

There's no use waxing poetic, or being whimsical. Racing makes its money when people bet. Period.

If the DRF can bring people into their system like other ADW's do, with DRF plus, plus as a free offering to them, then it works. If not, then I think the advertising model is where the money is.

Does it "hurt or help racing"? I don't think it does either.

That's my 2 cents, which like a grainy torrent of Iron Man 3, just might be what it's worth.

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