NBC’s Belmont Stakes Streaming Coverage: Still Tied to the Whipping Post?

The 147th running of the Belmont Stakes, where American Pharoah will attempt to beat increasingly long odds and become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, airs this Saturday, June 6, at 6:50 p.m. The sport of kings still feels royally restrictive– no non-folding or folding furniture allowed on the premises?— in many respects, but, for mere spectators, a glimpse at history is increasingly accessible.

NBC is providing major-network television coverage of the race, primarily through its cable sports channel, NBCSN, beginning on Friday afternoon. For the main event, the action switches to NBC itself beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. In a new development, NBC also is offering live radio coverage of the race.

 For streamers, NBC’s television content will be available live through its NBC Sports Live Extra service. While there is no additional cost to use NBC Live Extra, it has a number of restrictions. Most critically, it is not available without a cable or satellite subscription, and it is not available outside the United States or its territories. If you’re still reading, there are free Apple and Android mobile apps, and the service is available for Roku and Apple TV, but all of these still require a cable or satellite subscription.

One sign that NBC may be loosening the reins, however slightly, on cable and satellite providers’ control of content was their decision to stream Wednesday’s draw, the event that determines the horses’ positions in the starting gate, live on Periscope. Comments by NBC Sports Group Chief Marketing Officer John Miller (not to be confused with NBC Sports Group President of Programming Jon Miller) suggest that NBC does not see the free, Twitter-based streaming technology as a part of the network’s core services going forward, however. Miller described the draw as “not an event that [ordinarily] would be covered” and the Periscope broadcast of it as “promotional.” Although Belmont Park allows fans to bring mobile telephones to the Belmont Stakes (after “screening”), Miller does not see potential unofficial Periscope streams of the race as a threat to NBC’s ratings or coverage.

As noted at this site last week, the comparatively low quality of streams on Periscope, and its cousin Meerkat, are likely to tamp down heavy usage for live sporting events. This seems particularly likely to be the case for events available on standard television broadcasts like the Belmont Stakes, and it supports Miller’s view that, at least for now, these services will be limited to a supporting role. Interestingly, though, a note on an article discussing last month’s Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, in which Periscope streams of the pay-per-view event gave HBO and Showtime headaches, discloses that NBC’s owner, Comcast, is a Meerkat investor.

Periscope et al. may yet leave their marks in the live sports space, but if you want to watch American Pharoah try this weekend to make sure we never forget his name, you’re going to need a cable or satellite subscription.

(Image via Donnie Ray Jones)





Alec is a founding contributor at ALDLAND and a writer at Banished to the Pen and TechGraphs. He interfaces with sports twitter @ALDLANDia.

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John Elway
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John Elway

Good Lord I feel like I’m dyyyyyinnnnnn’

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It’s good, neigh great to hear from you, John. See you at the track!