Home YouTube in Talks to Broadcast NBA Games

YouTube in Talks to Broadcast NBA Games

YouTube is in talks with the National Basketball Association and other major sports leagues about winning the rights to broadcast games live on the internet, a Google executive in charge of partnerships in South Korea has told Business Week. Could Google outbid the major TV networks, who pay hundreds of millions of dollars in multi-year, multi-billion dollar licensing contracts to broadcast major US sports live? It certainly seems possible.

Disney and TNT are currently half-way through 8 year contracts with the NBA for an undisclosed sum that will conclude with the 2015-2016 season. Google began covering live cricket matches in India last year and another company staff member told Business Week’s Jun Yang that “It’s fair to say that there will be a lot more appealing sports content you’ll see on YouTube.” Live NBA games though? That would be insane. Such is the nature of the media disruption underway, though, is it not? Update: Staci Kramer at Paid Content got a denial from the NHL and asserts that NBA talks were only regarding broadcast in Asia. If that’s the case, that’s too bad.

The Indian Premier League cricket broadcasts began last Spring and were viewed on YouTube 50 million times. TechCrunch reported that the company’s internal goal was to stretch and hit 10 million views. The contests were not broadcast live inside the US, however, because of TV licensing rights conflicts.

This Summer, YouTube announced it would broadcast every Major League Baseball game of the next season in Japan, but 36 hours after the game was over. None the less, that deal was called by the company “the largest partnership for premium sports content” in its history.

Sports are high value content and live sports even more so. Across media types and across international borders, things get very, very complicated. Could Google steal the show from incumbent big-ticket TV broadcasters? If anyone could, it’s the sprawling and deep-pocketed search, video and advertising giant.

It’s entirely possible that one international Google team member made a passing comment that the Business Week reporter blew out of proportion and then put into a convenient context with other comments not intended to reflect on the ultimate subject of that publication’s article. Entirely possible. It is, however, probably impossible that YouTube is not in fact talking to the NBA and other sports leagues whenever it has a chance to do so.

If I was a TV exec sitting on 4 years of multibillion dollar sports broadcasting rights, I’d be pretty concerned about what the internet was going to bring to the bidding game once that contract nears its conclusion.

Oh, for the days of “Broadcast Yourself.” They certainly are long gone.

YouTube hasn’t yet responded to our request for comment.

Update: A YouTube spokesperson replied to our request for comment and said “we don’t have anything more to add at this time than what appeared in the BW story.”

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