YouTube interested in extending Olympic live-streaming deals

YouTube is no closer to buying sports broadcast rights than it was six months ago, but the Google-owned video service is so enjoying its first live streaming of the Olympics in Asia and Africa that it wants to extend the partnership through 2016.

Claude Ruibal, YouTube head of sports content, said that the company’s live stream of the Olympic Broadcast Services feed from London had been a success in 64 markets in Asia and Africa. The deal took nearly a year to complete and marks the first time the International Olympic Committee has partnered with YouTube to stream its international Olympic feed live in select markets.

Under terms of the deal, YouTube takes 55 percent of advertising revenue and gives the other 45 percent to the International Olympic Committee.

“It was different for them to take on that role and not have someone else be responsible for (the broadcast),” Ruibal said. “I would like to have a longer-term relationship where it’s not just a few months before the event but we can announce it earlier and be more successful finding advertisers. We had success with that but would like more lead time.”

Ruibal said that the partnerships with the IOC and NBC, which it is providing with its digital video player for live streaming of the Olympics, has been a good way for YouTube to expand its knowledge as a distributor of live sports.

“We want to have more live sports on YouTube,” Ruibal said. “We’re not going to go out and buy rights for English Premier League rights or the Olympics, but if we can partner with the IOC to offer live distribution in markets like Asia and Africa where their broadcasters aren’t going to show 2,000-plus hours, that’s great for us.”

Ruibal said YouTube would partner with international sports federations over the next few years to show their world championships live. Doing so would add to a growing list of properties that have shown its events live on YouTube, including the Indian Premier League, Copa America and America’s Cup sailing.

The company also hopes to create opportunities for other sports to have video-on-demand content on their own channel.

Ruibal was unsure if YouTube would renew its deal with NBC Universal to serve as the video player for its live streaming on during the 2014 or 2016 Games, and added that a decision won’t be made on that for a while.

“It was really good for us at this point of time,” Ruibal said. “I love having the NBC content on our player. We see ourselves as a distributor, (but) with NBC’s business model that’s difficult because they have great distribution deals with cable and satellite distributors. I don’t see that model changing any time soon, so it’s difficult to get live content on YouTube. If that changed, that would be great.”

The big, prime-time ratings NBC is putting up for the London Olympics haven’t surprised Ruibal. The network is streaming every event live for the first time during a Summer Games.

“I’ve always argued with every broadcaster you meet that (streaming is) not going to cut into your audience,” Ruibal said. “It’s only going to augment it. People spend time on their handheld devices or PCs. If you’re not there, they might not be aware that something is happening.”

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