Google's Eric Schmidt was obviously pitching to the big sports leagues when he publicly stated that YouTube can live stream their games at last week's 2013 Paley Center International Council in NYC. When asked the question, 'Can YouTube really stream simultaneously to 10s of millions?' His answer was an unqualified yes – technically. Now let's just think about this for a moment. I didn't have TV access to the final of the 2014 America's Cup this year but I did watch it live on YouTube. I have to admit that the quality of the stream was OK, – but would I have watched on a TV channel if I'd had access to one? Of course, because the HD quality and consistency of the stream on YouTube was no comparison to the live TV broadcast. However, I did get to watch it live, and thanks to YouTube I had that experience in a remote location on my iPad. So technically it can be done but is it going to be the best viewer experience? Not just yet!
Let's hear what Schmidt has to say on the subject of YouTube and sportscasting:
Google are taking on the challenge of the 'last mile' delays of the internet with their fiber initiatives and they praise the 4G roll-out by AT & T and Verizon making it possible to watch good quality live streams on mobile devices.
So even if we accept that the user experience will continue to improve, is YouTube going to become the channel of choice for mainstream sports where even the final of the America's Cup is dwarfed when it comes to viewer numbers? In my opinion, not overnight – for one key reason: Even Schmidt admits that someone has to financially trump the TV Networks to buy the rights to broadcast online, and that's not going to be Google. Let's be honest here, the cartel between the TV Networks, the agencies. their advertisers and the major leagues is an old-established pact.
And even the networks are still outbidding each other within that cartel with no regard to any possible threat from wireless. Take British Telecom's (BT Sports) recent winning bid to broadcast the Champions League and Europa League football (soccer) matches. Even ITV and Sky combined were unwilling to out bid them – losing the rights to BT for £897m ($1.45 billion).
So what sports are currently streamed live on YouTube? Well plenty of niche sports such as sedate curling or the not so sedate UFC ( Ultimate Fighting Challenge), not to mention local interests as seen in the Kentucky Wildcats and many more. Now isn't that the point really! This is where the growth will come as more local and niche sports utilize the ever cheaper technology to live stream their events and take advantage of YouTube's live streaming service.
Eventually one of the major leagues will break onto YouTube – but we may just be consuming a lot more pizza and beer in front of the TV Networks offering before that day comes,