YouTube To Show Live Indian Premier League Cricket?

Is the super-rich Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket competition about to go global in a deal with YouTube? Several reports from Indian media say Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and the Bord of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will on Wednesday announce a live streaming deal.

YouTube had already hosted match highlights for last year’s second IPL season on an existing channel. YouTube has already been testing large-scale live events like a U2 concert and was on Tuesday due to stream the IPL’s pre-season “auction”, in which some 51 players will swap teams.

India’s Sony (NYSE: SNE) Entertainment Television and Singaporean World Sport Group jointly hold domestic and global IPL broadcast rights respectively in a $1.2 billion, 10-year deal, and have re-sold to a patchwork of global players. Willow TV holds North America internet rights.

Now reports say the 59-match, 45-day day competition, which starts March 12, will be broadcast live through YouTube. Though in which territories and on what basis is not clear. It could be a deal to bring the tournament to countries where there is a gap in TV coverage – the UK lost IPL coverage with last year’s collapse of secondary rightsholder Setanta. The International Olympic Committee hosted Beijing 2008 highlights on YouTube for countries which had no television deal. DirecTV (NYSE: DTV) aired last year’s IPL in the US on its $149-a-year Cricket Ticket.

Asked to confirm reports, IPL chair Lalit Kumar Modi tweeted: “Wait and watch for breaking news soon.” YouTube UK told paidContent:UK: “We can’t comment on rumour and speculation.” But Bruce Daisley, the lead for display ads and YouTube at Google in London, is quoted by Marketing mag as saying: “We’re keen to see how the community will take to live sport. There’s a real interest in live events, so we’re excited.”

An event like the IPL could be an important shot in the arm to YouTube’s ad sales. The IPL is not just a domestic Indian cricket tournament but numbers players from around the world and is touring various countries as match hosts, and plans to pay out six percent of an expected $1.6 billion, 10-year income as prize money.

Marketing mag: “YouTube wants to sign a global sponsor and multiple local backers as part of its strategy to make money from the coverage.” “Modi told India’s Economic Times at the weekend that he hopes to hold matches in the United States within 18 months.” The paper says “Google will split advertising revenue”, though there’s no confirmation of that.