Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 24 No. 116
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Catching Up With YouTube Global Head Of Sports Content Claude Ruibal

CLAUDE RUIBAL has a knack for start-ups. From his time at Ask Jeeves, to being Founder, Chair & CEO of Universal Sports, the self-proclaimed entrepreneurial spirit finds himself as the new Global Head of Sports Content for YouTube. After six months in the position, Ruibal has defined the site’s mission as a distribution platform, extending partnerships with cricket’s Indian Premier League and ESPN's "Your Highlight," one of the most popular engagement programs on YouTube. Ruibal recently spoke with Staff Writer Theresa Manahan.

All-time favorite YouTube video: An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube.
Gadget you couldn’t live without: My bicycle.
Current book you’re reading: “Born to Run,” by CHRISTOPHER MCDOUGALL.
First sports jersey you owned: I was six years old living in a town called Mendoza, Argentina, and we went and bought an Argentinean football jersey.
How many videos do you view in a given day? I would say not enough because I spend a lot of my time in a given day in a meeting or managing e-mail. I would guess on any given day in terms of number of videos maybe five, and that’s probably on a good day if I’m lucky.

Q: What is the top business goal you've set for YouTube Sports but haven't been able to accomplish yet?
Ruibal: We’re definitely looking to provide users on our platform more long-form sports content, live sports content. We have achieved that to a certain extent with a few things that we’ve done more recently. We did something called the Indian Premier League cricket competition, which was a 51-day, 74-match tournament (airing) about 250 hours of long-form content. It did really well on our platform and had a lot of views and showed us that it really was a set of content that allowed us to extend viewing time on the YouTube platform. … The sports team objective both domestically and globally is to go out and work with existing broadcasters and rights holders to see how we could potentially partner with them as a platform to allow them to have enhanced opportunities to reach more users and consumers globally through YouTube.

Q: How did the collaboration work with the IPL?
Ruibal: We always look at ourselves as a platform distribution opportunity. We are not a content creator nor a content curator. We’re not producing content, we are not a host broadcaster. We’re not doing the production, we’re not doing the commentary. We’re really taking feeds of content that are already produced by either a host broadcaster, by a rights holder, by another television broadcaster who may be taking the feed and adding their commentary to it. We try and partner with broadcasters, rights holders, event organizers to really become their main distribution platform or one of their distribution platforms to supplement what they may be doing on their own websites or with other broadcasters in their market or multiple markets.

Do you foresee YouTube’s role in sports content ever becoming a rights holder?
Ruibal: Our vision for YouTube is not to be a rights holder, not to compete with existing broadcasters or other distributors of content, but to really be a platform.

Q: Your channels are created by users and listed by views, so an NBA game highlight can be next to a parkour video. Will the site go through any kind of organization among channels that categorize them?
Ruibal: Discoverability throughout the YouTube site I think in general could be better, and I think that we’re looking at a variety of options on how to make it more user-friendly to find things and to have relevant structure around the things you’re watching.

Q: Do you have a soft spot for start-ups?
Ruibal: I definitely am entrepreneurial in nature and while YouTube is a big organization, I do think that it has the mentality and the energy and the bias for action of a start-up. … It allows me to kind of replicate what I did with Universal Sports domestically and sort of provide a whole new set of content to an underserved audience and aggregate that content on a platform that allows us to see it now on YouTube and on a global scale.

Q: What do you feel like you've had to learn that wasn't part of your skill set when you started your position?
Ruibal: Understanding the intricacies and the complexities involved in creating digital products. I’d done some of that at Universal Sports, but in a lot of cases we had third party providers. Major League Baseball Advanced Media’s BOB BOWMAN and his team provided our initial website at Universal Sports. Then we went and did some work with NeuLion, then finally with Microsoft and Silverlight was the last iteration before I left. Those were sort of all rental models or leased solutions. In this case at YouTube, we build it ourselves, so having the opportunity to work with this team and build the interface is super exciting. But you realize it is really hard work.