Earlier this week the New York Times had an interesting article on sports broadcasting as viewed through the recent YouTube – IPL Season 3 experiment. While the financial winners and losers of the arrangement are not known, we do know that it was a win for many fans, including myself, who viewed matches and highlights. In fact, according to the article:
“About 50 million viewers tuned in to YouTube’s I.P.L. channel, 25 percent more than Google executives said they expected when they signed the deal in January. Approximately 40 percent of those viewers were outside India.”
Yesterday I wrote about Google’s Chrome ads and how there were more than just about speed. I think the Google has made another shrewd move with the [Google-owned] YouTube – IPL tie-up. Just as they are challenging Apple in the ‘creative’ space (again, see the Chrome ads), they are also positioning themselves to challenge the likes of ESPN (via their ESPN3 online sports channel).
By partnering with the IPL, YouTube not only has a direct plug in to the burgeoning Indian market, but also to the high end sponsors that come along with a property as massively popular as the IPL. Again from the NY Times article:
“Google signed on seven advertisers in India, including Coca-Cola and Hewlett-Packard, two in Britain and one in the United States, where YouTube showed matches 15 minutes after they finished.”
Now it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to see a vision of the future where fans from around the world are watching live sporting events via YouTube on their Nexus One Google phones. That really can’t be more than a couple years away at most. Just as Rupert Murdoch grabbed rights to English Premier League football to legitimize Sky Sports (and to some degree NFL rights to legitimize FOX in the U.S.), Google could tie up exclusive mobile rights as a trojan horse for the Nexus One.
Perhaps the biggest problem Google will face is that both the properties themselves as well as the current broadcast rights holders are organized or technologically savvy enough to make this work. They’re stuck in an out-dated system that often bundles mobile and television rights to the same outlets, regardless of their abilities to maximize the digital opportunities.
Ultimately Google, if they are indeed headed in this direction, may need to pay over the top for mobile or online rights. I’d reckon that’s a gamble worth taking, especially for a sport such as cricket which is on a global upswing right now