Yahoo has landed a deal to show Premier League highlights over the internet, following a competitive auction in which it outbid current rights holder Virgin Media.
Carol Bartz, the chief executive of the internet giant, was in London yesterday to unveil the group's global strategy. She revealed Yahoo had beaten companies including Virgin to the rights to screen five-minute highlight packages of matches from English football's top tier for the next three seasons.
The multi-million pound contract marks its first significant foray into UK sports content. One source from a rival broadcaster said: "This shows that a different type of potential licensee has emerged than has previously been considered. It is great news for the Premier League." Virgin had won the online rights from Sky, and they had previously been owned by the mobile phone operators Vodafone and 3.
This is the second upheaval in Premier League highlights packages, as it follows shortly after ESPN won exclusive rights to show football content over mobile phones from BSkyB. Sky said it would close its 24/7 service after the rights changed hands.
There is another package of Premier League highlights – the "near live" rights – which are currently held by Sky and are coming up for renewal "imminently", according to the football body.
Yahoo said highlights will be shown on its UK site, adding it intends to increase video content on its sites with more of what Ms Bartz called "video snacks" of five and 10-minute clips.
This follows similar content deals Yahoo has signed in the US, which include basketball highlights from the NBA, golf from the PGA as well as Major League Baseball. The group will attempt to make money from the online packages by selling advertising around it. The group will also be able to syndicate the highlights to other websites. The Premier League said it had seen a rise in non-traditional media
Rich Riley, Yahoo's European managing director, said: "The acquisition of Premier League rights shows how serious Yahoo is about providing the best in video content for our both our users and advertisers."
The highlights will be available from midnight on Sunday after weekend matches, and from midnight the same day for midweek fixtures. Mr Riley continued: "Sport is a passion for our target audiences and the Premier League rights are a key part of our efforts to build on Yahoo's reputation for engaging, original content."
One industry source said: "There is a lot of illegal football content posted up on rival sites, such as Google-owned YouTube. Yahoo might well have bought in the highlights to say: 'Come to us for the legitimate content.'"
Richard Scudamore, chief executive of the Premier League, said Yahoo had a "great reputation and presence in new media". He said: "The way fans access Barclays Premier League action is growing ever more diverse and sophisticated. The online highlights package is an important medium for supporters of all our clubs to be able to follow match action."
The highlights are not expected to compete with prime-time highlights shows like Match of the Day. The Premier League said the short form highlights were a "different proposition to something like Match of the Day. It's for people dipping in and out."
A BBC spokeswoman said: "Mobile clip packages have been part of the broadcasting landscape, where the Premier League is concerned, for six seasons now, but they have had no impact on Match Of The Day audiences which remain very strong. We actually use mobile viewing ourselves with Match Of The Day already available to watch live on mobile devices and Match Of The Day 2 available from next season."
Ms Bartz said at yesterday's global strategy announcement, at the Tate Modern art gallery in London, that she wants the company to be "at the centre of people's online lives".
She said: "Our vision is to be the internet of one. We should be able to tailor what users like by viewing what they are doing on the internet. We want to have pages tailored for users."
She would not comment on reports that Yahoo was interested in buying location-based social media group Foursquare, but said such services were "very interesting".