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Is Google a player in the game of sports media rights?

Dec 19, 2013, 12:10 PM EST

MLS

Might Google be the next big player in the battle for soccer broadcast rights?

Sports Business Daily journalist John Ourand thinks so – predicting that the search engine giant could be the winner in the upcoming MLS and USMNT rights deals.

With the current MLS and USMNT rights package set to expire in 2014, there has been much speculation over what network will buy the property.

ESPN? NBC? FOX?

But as Ourand suggests, it may not be a television network that is doing the purchasing.

Given the progressive nature of MLS, it hardly comes as a shock that they’re pursuing more non-traditional options of live match distribution.

One should absolutely expect Google to be a major player in the sports rights game going forward. In fact, no major digital company with distribution capabilities should be discounted.

Netflix. Apple. Facebook. Think big.

In fact it was just yesterday that Mark Zuckerberg’s company announced the purchase of sports data streaming start up company, Sports Stream. If that’s not laying the groundwork to combine first and second screen viewing experiences for fans, I don’t know what is.

Of course, there are some hurdles to clear before the digital revolution completely changes the game. Like the ability to handle a subscription package. Ourand notes:

“Before Google can make a splash with a big rights deal, it has to show that YouTube can handle a subscription package — and 2014 will be the year. Look for the company to set something up around U.S. and international soccer, potentially positioning the company as a player for rights in the next decade.”

An MLS on YouTube subscription could be quite innovative, allowing fans to chose from a number of different packages from season long deals to single match purchases.

Whether such a deal gets done during this rights package sale, however, remains speculative.

  1. mkbryant3 - Dec 19, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    This would be awesome. I cut the cord recently (goodbye, DirecTV) and am hoping for more progress for a la carte sports subscriptions. We’ll eventually get there, “how quickly?” is the question. I love the MLS subscription, where I can watch on my AppleTV or iPad or iPhone. I would love to be able to pay for an EPL sub or La Liga sub as well.

  2. Scott Ludwig - Dec 19, 2013 at 1:50 PM

    Reblogged this on KICKS Soccer News.

  3. charliej11 - Dec 19, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    I am too old to understand whether this is good or not.

    But soccer in the US is a niche market. Sure the Sounders draw, sure an occassional game in Europe hits big, sure the Nat team will get fans watching….but it is niche.

    Maybe being the biggest on a niche outlet is the way to go ?

  4. ndnut - Dec 19, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    This is not the time to be that progressive. Charlie just pointed out that soccer is a niche sport. If this model is adopted, kids who grow up in homes without an MLS fan as a parent will never have the chance to be exposed to the sport, as their parents wouldn’t buy a subscription for them. Now there is a chance they will see highlights or a game while channel surfing, and then getting hooked. Or even watch Nat team games and fall in love with the sport like I did. This plan would compromise growth too much for it to benefit the sport in America.

    • wandmdave - Dec 20, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      It depends on how they monetize it. They could decide to make it free to draw eyeballs and ad revenue like most of Google’s offerings. If that would be the case then it would be tons tons better than any TV deal in terms of availability of games and exposure.

  5. danielofthedale - Dec 19, 2013 at 6:18 PM

    Yeah this move does not excite me. I prefer to watch my games on my tv not on my laptop. If I want to see more MLS games I will just get the Direct Kick tv package.

    If the league wants to grow they need to make head way in the TV market. So hopefully the new tv contracts will help make it easier to watch MLS on TV with more set times and days.

  6. donjuego - Dec 20, 2013 at 1:10 AM

    Daniel, I watch MLS games on the MLSLIVE.TV website, using my laptop, on my 65″ plasma. Its beautiful. Its easy.

  7. braxtonrob - Dec 20, 2013 at 2:44 AM

    That would be awful!
    I don’t want to have to watch all my soccer on my tiny computer monitor.

    I like my 42″ TV, thank you very much.

  8. thethirst21 - Dec 20, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    It is so easy to set up a computer to play on your big screen TV. Its just a $15 dollar attachment and you are good to go. I haven’t had a TV hooked up to any sort of cable in about 8 years as a result.

    I also think it is silly to think that it will expose MLS to WAY more people of a younger generation. Yes, there will be a subscription to get all the matches, but if Google is going to spend the money on it, its going to be plastered all over YouTube and there will be free games to try and draw people in. They are going to be spending millions on these rights, they aren’t going to just tuck them in a corner and leave them alone. You are gonna see a little thing by the YouTube logo when there are big games, like they do for music festivals and things like that. You will be bombarded with Google plus ads to tune in. I bet the MLS cup will even get a specially done Google search bar logo the day it’s played. This could be huge for MLS!

  9. onelovesoccer7 - Dec 20, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    this would be great. this whole concept is called “consumption economics.” as a result, cloud-based services come out and customers can pick and choose what they pay for. Oracle, for example, experienced this trend when salesforce.com came out. as a result, they had to adjust their strategy and now have a whole BU for it; Oracle Cloud Solutions.

    point is, there is no doubt this would be highly successful IF they also come out with an app for xbox/ps3/smart TV/etc. if they want it consumed, it needs to be easy to consume. i also have no problem plugging my laptop into my nice LED TV unlike some of the people in here.

  10. zava55 - Dec 20, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    Copa America was streamed on YouTube to over 50 countries in 2011. Question is if there is enough money to be made from doing this.

  11. chadmoon1 - Dec 20, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    Technology blows. For MLS to be a true “major league”, it has to be on TV. If they want to supplement with Google, ok. But it cannot be a major sport and only be streamed.

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