The National Hockey League is denying a Bloomberg report from Seoul that it is in talks with YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG) to stream live games. Asked about the report based on comments by Google executives, an NHL spokesperson told paidContent that “while Google is a valued partner, the NHL has never had any discussions with YouTube to stream live games.”
The report from Seoul cited Gautam Anand, Google’s director of content partnerships for Asia Pacific, and Brian Suh, head of YouTube partnerships for Google Korea, and keyed off the success of last year’s streaming deal for the cricket Indian Premier League.
The NBA told Bloomberg, “We’re pleased that YouTube recognizes the value of live sports.”
YouTube’s serious interest in sports is not in doubt. It carried March Madness on Demand when CBS (NYSE: CBS) managed the interactive rights and recently hired Claude Ruibal, the former CEO of Universal Sports, to head sports content partnerships.
The leagues are equally interested in YouTube. The NBA and the NHL were part of the ill-fated Google Video offering (the failure that led to acquiring YouTube) with archive games. Each has a channel on YouTube now — NHL, NBA — for highlights. The NBA has 292,231 subscribers and more than a half-million upload views. The NHL has 73,634 subscribers and 67-plus million upload views.
But there’s a big leap between highlights and streaming live games online.
Update: According to a source familiar with the NBA’s thinking, the league had preliminary talks with YouTube but — and this is important — for Asia only. Any deal would be geotargeted to exclude the U.S.