YouTube scores more soccer, but still misses EPL goal

You can tell YouTube is keen to be a big content brand when it starts press-releasing its channel partners’ own announcements.

Online video rights clearing house Rightster has brokered soccer highlights represented by MP & Silva to Google’s video website.

The deal creates a new channel, called Love Football, on YouTube, carrying goals and clips from matches in Serie A (Italy), Ligue 1 (France), MLS (U.S.), Serie A (Brazil) and England’s Championship, FA Cup and Capital One Cup.

Asked whether YouTube had put down money for the content, a spokesperson told paidContent:

“This is a traditional partnership similar to the Scottish League coming to YouTube, for example.

“We don’t comment on the specifics of our deals but this content will be ad-supported. YouTube provides the platform for our partners to distribute their content and have robust tools to help manage rights.”

YouTube has historically called itself merely a “platform” for other content owners. But the site has recently shown more interest in leveraging big-brand content like sports…

There is little transparency about the extent of any direct involvement by YouTube in bringing such content to its site, but it is likely trying to bring top-tier sports to its site through partners rather than signing direct deals.

Last month, the Scottish Premier League (SPL) opened a YouTube channel carrying match highlights, exploiting its own rights through the site. YouTube also carries Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket in some countries on behalf of its rightsholder.

Premier puzzle

Regardless of this configuration, the missing piece of the puzzle remains the jewel in football’s crown – the English Premier League, which has previously sued YouTube for allowing unauthorised clips.

Yahoo and ESPN currently hold online and mobile clips rights, respectively, until the end of the just-started 2012/13 season.

The league in June awarded live multi-platform rights for the 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons to BSkyB and BT, whose combined winning bids of £3.018 billion doubled the previous outlay.

But the Premier League is still yet to unveil winning bids for three outstanding packages – internet clips (including mobile), “near-live” long-form for on-demand and “near-live” long-form for linear. An announcement is expected by October.

How, or whether, YouTube might get the English Premier League remains an open question – but another deal with another partner looks more likely than a direct bid.

Asked, a YouTube spokesperson told paidContent:

“Regarding EPL, as always we’re open to discussions with all partners but we don’t have anything to announce at this point.”

Syndication to YouTube of EPL clips, then, will depend on the outcome of the league’s still-outstanding internet clips auction, which will not come until the autumn at least.

The man leading YouTube’s sports video strategy is Stephen Nuttall, the former commercial director of the EPL’s main live rights holder, BSkyB, who is nowadays YouTube’s senior director of sports for Europe, Middle East and Africa.