YouTube (s GOOG) has announced its first worldwide sports deal, confirming that it will stream Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket matches live online. Beginning on March 12, all 60 matches of the 45-day IPL tournament will be streamed on a dedicated YouTube channel at youtube.com/ipl and on the IPL’s web site at www.iplt20.com.
The deal is a significant one for YouTube, as it will have the rights to broadcast the cricket matches all over the world, not just in markets where the IPL hasn’t sold TV rights. In fact, the only place where the YouTube stream won’t be available is the U.S., where “re-broadcast options will be available,” which means that U.S. viewers will most likely have to turn to Willow.tv for streams of the matches. Under the terms of the deal, YouTube will have exclusive online streaming rights for two years, and will share sponsorship and advertising revenues with the IPL. The deal could be particularly significant in the UK where, due to the recent collapse of IPL TV rights holder Setanta, YouTube might be the only show in town.
The move to YouTube comes a year after the tournament made its video available online in a free, ad-supported format from the IPL web site. That led to a significant increase in viewership, with more than 15 million unique visitors and 28 million live video sessions over the course of the five-week tournament. But streaming the ’09 tournament was not without its problems: As Om reported last year, the online presentation was a bit of a failure, at least in the early days of the tournament.
Hopefully this time around, running on YouTube’s infrastructure will keep the streams from crashing as they did last year. The move could also provide another huge boost in viewership, based on YouTube’s global reach.