Thu, Feb 24, 2011 - Page 20 News List

YouTube in talks to stream NBA, NHL games live

Bloomberg

YouTube said it’s in talks with the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) to broadcast live games, building on the popularity of cricket’s Indian Premier League (IPL) last year.

YouTube aims to show more live sports in the second half of the year, said Gautam Anand, Google’s director of content partnerships for Asia Pacific, in an interview in Seoul on Tuesday. He declined to give details of the discussions with the NBA and NHL.

Adding live sports broadcasts may help YouTube expand revenue by keeping viewers on its site longer to woo more advertisers. YouTube’s contract to show cricket from the IPL, which gives the Google unit a share of ad -revenue from games and the league’s Web site, brought in 55 million visits from more than 250 countries, Anand said.

“It’s fair to say that there will be a lot more appealing sports content you’ll see on YouTube,” Anand said. “We have ongoing conversations with pretty much everyone.”

Mountain View, California-based Google is in negotiations with “most pro sports leagues” including the NBA and NHL, as well as soccer leagues in Europe, said Brian Suh, head of YouTube Partnership at Google’s South Korean unit, in a separate telephone interview on Tuesday.

“We’re pleased that YouTube recognizes the value of live sports,” Michael Bass, senior vice president for marketing communications at the NBA, said yesterday.

Gary Meager, senior vice president for public relations at the NHL, did not reply to a telephone message and e-mail request for comment.

Where new live-streaming services will be offered depends on each deal, said Lois Kim, a spokeswoman for Google Korea. YouTube streams Major League Baseball games in Japan, where major TV broadcasters don’t feature the sporting events.

One of the key goals for YouTube this year is to offer longer clips of movies and shows under the lead of former Netflix Inc executive Robert Kyncl, Anand said. Google also hired Claude Ruibal, former chief executive and chairman of Universal Sports, as the head of sports content partnerships for YouTube this year to boost sports content, Anand said.

During the IPL broadcast, viewers spent on average 40 minutes watching each match, he said. The company needs to do more to keep its viewers on the site for longer than the average daily 15-minute session, compared with the multiple hours consumers spend in front of televisions, according to Hunter Walk, director of product management at YouTube.

“One of the good things about IPL was that it really proved to a lot of sports leagues that broad-scale live-streaming type of exercise is something that’s possible,” Anand said. “They took notice of IPL and have come to us and entered into a lot more serious discussions.”

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