Google Streams Live Sports, But Not NHL

by , Feb 23, 2011, 1:19 PM
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Google might tell marketers there's no connection between streaming live content on YouTube and Google TV, but few consumers can ignore the merger created by the demand for content from broadcast television on Internet-connected devices, from online to mobile.

Reports from Bloomberg surfaced earlier this week, suggesting ongoing talks between YouTube and the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League to stream live games on the site. Gautam Anand, Google's director of content partnerships for Asia Pacific, told Bloomberg during an interview in Seoul that Google is in talks with 'most pro sports leagues,' including the NBA and NHL, as well as soccer leagues in Europe, Brian Suh, head of YouTube Partnership at Google's Korean unit, said separately. There were no additional comments from Bloomberg after MediaPost contacted the news agency.

While it may quench the thirst of sports fans and bring in major ad revenue for Google, the alleged talks break down with an NHL spokesperson. "The NHL is not in discussions with YouTube to stream live games," according to the NHL spokesperson. "The NHL has not had conversations with the Google spokespeople mentioned in the Bloomberg report."

Some might question why, but it shouldn't come as a shock that reports have surfaced related to streaming sports. Google also has been the center of debate on whether YouTube will secure the rights to support movies and television shows. A variety of events have streamed live on YouTube, such as Q&A sessions with U.S. President Barack Obama, and U2 concerts. In 2010, YouTube streamed the Indian Premier League cricket matches.

Streaming live sports in local markets has become one of the most complex issues for U.S. sports teams, all brought on by the Internet. It's complicated because not all contracts are negotiated similarly. In general, when a regional sports network (RSN) negotiates a deal with a local hockey team to broadcast over local television, the team also bundles in local streaming rights and feeds them to the RSN, knowing the rights cannot be exercised without the approval of the league. Ultimately, the NHL controls local streaming rights, according to a recent report in the Sports Business Journal.

Apple iPhone apps will change that somewhat by allowing fans to watch in-market games on mobile devices. While the ability to stream live in-market games to mobile devices in the U.S. has stalled, two Canadian teams -- the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs -- offer it in partnering with NeuLion.

The technology company NeuLion created a smartphone application that allows fans in both cities to watch live in-market games, according to the Sports Business Journal. These teams can do it because they kept their respective rights for digital and mobile streaming.

Paid Content reports that the NBA had preliminary talks with YouTube, but only in Asia. Any deal would exclude the U.S.

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