America's most popular pro sports league and YouTube announced a partnership Monday between two of the most powerful brands in the marketplace, creating an official NFL channel on the video website.
The NFL has protected its video as fiercely as any sports league, pushing most users to its website or to its broadcast partners. Now content posted daily to the portal by the league will include game previews, in-game highlights, post-game recaps and clips featuring news, analysis, fantasy football advice and other original programming from NFL Network and NFL.com.
Highlight packages from the current postseason were already viewable Sunday, and plenty of Super Bowl programming was scheduled to appear throughout the week and after the NFL's championship game, which is the biggest event in American television.
Game highlights and other content will also be available through Google's search engine, which will display official NFL videos along with related news and information in a box at the top of the page. Kickoff times and broadcast information for every NFL game will be prominently displayed.
Google acquired YouTube in 2006. The tandem previously formed partnerships with the other three major American sports leagues, MLB, the NBA and the NHL. Google has been trying to mine more revenue from YouTube, which is positioned for further growth as consumers continue to shift toward online and mobile viewing and away from live television.
"We continue to see an insatiable appetite for digital video content, and this partnership further expands fans' ability to discover and access NFL content throughout the year," Hans Schroeder, the NFL's senior vice president of media strategy, business development and sales, said in a statement distributed by the league.
Previously, the NFL videos that popped up in a YouTube search weren't sanctioned. The NFL, like many other entities and organizations, has used a YouTube tool called "Content ID" to be able to block unlicensed videos.
Football fans still flocked to the site, of course. Maybe they pulled up one of those "Bad Lip Reading" montages of silly voice-overs accompanying game clips. Or in the hunt for that favorite highlight—"Odell Beckham Jr. one-handed catch," for instance—they found a bunch of shaky camera-phone videos that some New York Giants fan took of the TV screen.
Now those searches will be more fruitful.
The billion-dollar question, then, is whether this partnership will pave the way for eventual live streaming of games through the YouTube site rather than over the air or on cable. Probably not anytime soon, though. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said "the focus is on non-live highlights." He added that "the agreement will provide tremendous exposure for our broadcast partners."
YouTube spokesman Matt McLernon, pointing to the site's past streaming of live Olympic events, said the opportunity is there and the technology is waiting if the league were to decide to do so.
"We would welcome it with open arms if the NFL or any other league" wanted to show live games on the site, McLernon said.
Terms of the deal were not provided. But it's a safe bet that it's worth a lot of money.
The league, citing Nielsen data, said the 2014 regular season reached 202.3 million unique viewers, representing 80 percent of all television homes and 68 percent of potential viewers in the U.S., and NFL games accounted for the entire top 20 and 45 of the top 50 most-watched television shows last fall.
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