Last week, in its first deal with a major sports league, video-sharing website YouTube announced a strategic partnership with the National Hockey League (NHL) to post daily short-form video content for the 2006-2007 season.
Video highlights of NHL regular season games are now available on YouTube within 24 hours of broadcast, along with other hockey-related programming on a custom NHL channel. The hope is that the deal will help the NHL reach a new audience, as well as provide a better way to connect with its existing fans.
It’s not surprising that this merger came about. YouTube and the NHL went into this partnership specifically because hockey fans are the biggest and the fastest growing sports fan sector to use the web.
Google’s acquistion of YouTube stops the spread of people making homemade, ripped from DVR, videos so that the people who own that content are entitled to reimbursement. Since the acquisition, YouTube has steadfastly been deleting copyrighted sports videos. For tennis related videos, this started with content related to the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and just today, clips from the U.S. Open. (I personally got three notices in a row. Sorry you won’t get to see my awesome Justin Gimelstob vids anymore.)
For tennis fans, in particular, this is an interesting situation. Our sport exists in a plane of a year-long season which criss-crosses the globe and is aired on multiple television networks that sometimes only reach local fans. It’s often difficult for fans to know who actually owns the material, suffice to say that “randomuser” who grabbed it off his DVR is not one. Still, any intellectual property attorney might argue that Fair Use in the U.S. is under 2 minutes, and that there are no real laws that pertain to the web in this area. But I digress… My main point is that given the variables, it probably behooves the tennis powers-that-be (PTB) to have their fans get out the content as much as possible — and for free.
I’ve talked to a few people in the tennis marketing community about this, and the consensus on YouTube seems to be that that the “misuse” of copyrighted intellectual property is not much of an issue or concern when it comes to the online sports space. Social networking and Internet community-building is going through such a cool growth spurt that most people seem to be looking for ways to become more involved, not less. Why stop the train?
Well, money may be that stopping factor. Another dynamic with the NHL deal is the monetization schema that’s occuring. The league will share in revenue from ads placed alongside hockey video clips, and will use YouTube’s “Claim Your Content” program, which allows producers to identify copyrighted content and either have it removed, or share in ad revenue on the infringing video clips. Google’s efforts to monetize YouTube seem set to change the new media landscape as other entities, including sports teams and leagues, try to aggregate and centralize their video content.
It’s not surprising to hear that YouTube is also negotiating similar deals with other sports leagues. Could tennis be one? And more importantly, will the ATP and WTA be able to keep up? I’m gonna go out on a limb and say ‘no’ and that the community of tennis fans better come up with another video sharing site…and fast.
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