SBJ/December 5-11, 2011/Franchises

MLSE brings live-game streams to Xbox 360

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment has partnered with Microsoft to stream its three live sports television channels — Leafs TV, GolTV Canada and NBA TV Canada — to Microsoft Xbox 360 video game consoles. The content will be available to users within MLSE’s league-mandated broadcast territories: Ontario for Leafs TV and all of Canada for GolTV Canada and NBA TV Canada.

The organization will be the first in North America to offer a live-game streaming service to in-market users across a gaming console.

Chris Hebb, senior vice president of broadcast and content for MLSE, said the group does not expect the service to generate substantial revenue but, rather, will test the market for streaming over gaming consoles.

“We want to see if there is an incremental audience on the Xbox that we have not been reaching,” Hebb said. “The next generation has grown up with gaming consoles as a main platform for consuming media, and it’s our job to be there.”

Xbox users will download MLSE’s free application, branded “Real Sports” after the organization’s sports bar in downtown Toronto. Within the application, users can subscribe to each channel individually, and the subscription price is $7 a month per channel. All channels are available in high definition.

Hebb said MLSE hopes to eventually release a la carte pricing for individual games, as well as bundled pricing for all three channels, but he did not give a timeline for the release of additional price points.

Leafs TV carries the NHL Toronto Maple Leafs and AHL Toronto Marlies games; NBA TV Canada carries Toronto Raptors games; and GolTV Canada carries Toronto FC, La Liga and Bundesliga games, as well as Brazilian and Colombian soccer games.

MLSE withheld its mobile and digital streaming rights in its television negotiations with local carrier Rogers Sportsnet. In December 2010, the organization began streaming Maple Leafs games on mobile devices to in-market customers. In October, Rogers began broadcasting live Maple Leafs games on the Rogers on Demand Online platform.

“We have three TV channels operating 24/7, so it’s a case for us about what platforms we can deploy them on,” Hebb said. “We don’t know if this is something [customers] will embrace or will ignore.”

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