YouTube seals IPL deal to show live cricket online

Google-owned video sharing website trumpets 'first-of-its-kind innovation'
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The Independent Online

YouTube has sealed a deal to show Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket live online , "the next frontier" for events streamed over the internet.

Google, the parent company of the video sharing website, announced in India yesterday that it had secured a deal to live stream all 60 IPL matches in the Twenty20 tournament featuring star cricketers from around the world.

YouTube has set up a dedicated channel to show the matches in a deal that gives Google exclusive online rights to IPL matches for two years. The sport body can still sell the rights to any television broadcaster it chooses. "This is the first time Google is live streaming for a major global sport on YouTube," the companies said in a joint statement. "This partnership also marks a first-of-its-kind innovation in live streaming of any global cricketing event." The live service will not be available in the US, although catch up and highlight programmes will be.

Lalit Modi, the chairman and commissioner of the IPL, said the move would make YouTube the "biggest virtual stadium in the world", saying it would give cricket fans "a direct window to the on-field action through next generation techniques".

The IPL and Google will split revenues from sponsorship and advertising around the programming as well as on IPL's official website.

Dan Cryan, an analyst at Screen Digest, said: "This is a very interesting move by YouTube, and arguably it is a continuation of its strategy to make it a destination for premium content.

The website signed deals last year with Channel 4 and Five in the UK to put thousands of hours of their back catalogues online, in an advertisement-supported model.

"To broadcast live, there is live music and 'event TV' such as the X Factor final. The next live frontier is sport and the IPL is an interesting choice for that. There will unquestioningly be interest from around the world," Mr Cryan said. The company has screened live music in the past. Last October, about 10 million watched a live feed of U2.

This will cheer IPL fans in the UK, as the broadcast rights, which were held by Setanta Sports, are yet to be picked up since the broadcaster's collapse last summer. Mr Cryan said YouTube would have to sort out some of its jitters to avoid angry viewers. "If it buffers when the ball's in the air it could be annoying for fans," he said.

In October, Kentaro decided to broadcast an England football match online with viewers charged up to £11.99. The broadcaster deemed it a success, saying close to 500,000 had watched the 1-0 defeat against Ukraine.

YouTube's model does not, as yet, include plans for subscription, although management has not ruled out charging for premium content.

It previously signed a deal with the International Olympic Committee to show events from the Beijing Olympics, although it was not streamed live. The site received 20 million views over the two weeks of the Games. The group also agreed with SportAccord last month to create "The Sports Hub". This will create a channel to show all of the 104 sports represented by the body.