League Technology Summit: YouTube’s Frank Golding Rejects Rights-Buying Rumors, Discusses Best Ways To Use Platform

When is Google going to step into the negotiation room and shake up the sports-rights–buying business? That has been a topic of conversation for much of 2012 as the rights marketplace continued to swell to historic levels. Rumors flew that Google was entering the fray to broadcast live sports on its popular YouTube video platform.

YouTube’s Frank Golding

YouTube’s Frank Golding

However, the company’s executives have held true to the company line, and YouTube’s head of North American sports Frank Golding, in his closing keynote address at the League Technology Summit on Tuesday, again shot down the notion.

“We are a distribution platform. We are not buying rights,” he said, echoing the words of his colleague Claude Ruibal, who said the same at a Sports Business Journal event in November. “I know there are folks out here who wish we were. Us getting into a nine-figure bidding war, even if we could afford it, would be poor at best.”

Large rights deals do create an intriguing marketplace for video-distribution Websites like YouTube, which Golding described as a “catch-up” destination: “If you paid $6 billion for 36 college football games, you are going to produce really good content for 36 college football games, and, when that fresh and great content is no longer fresh and great, you need a place to put it. NBC has taken over 3,000 hours of content that they used to have on their network and [is] putting different content on [instead]. That content didn’t just disappear. It has to go somewhere. I know of a pretty nice home.”

So, instead of discussing rights, he reviewed some of YouTube’s biggest successes in 2012 — which included streaming crowds at the London Olympics and the Red Bull Stratos jump by Felix Baumgartner — and broke down some of the best ways YouTube can serve sports leagues and their fans.

According to a Media Matrix study from 2009, 4 billion hours of content are viewed on YouTube per month. The site attracts 800 million unique viewers a month, with 72 hours of video uploaded every minute. Golding noted that YouTube is looking to utilize that substantial audience to offer opportunities to provide unique content and to drive tune-in to primary television productions.

“The content we are looking for is for the underserved fan,” he said. “That can be a lot of content from a niche sport or a very niche view for a broad sport. We’re also looking for stuff that is undistributed and new, like Felix Baumgartner. In addition, we want to surround the live event: shoot-around before an NBA game, batting practice. Stuff that your fan wants to see. This is a platform that allows you to come and do that.”

Golding made clear that leagues or broadcasters should have a mostly finished product before approaching YouTube. Again, he emphasized that the platform is one of distribution, not production.

“If someone comes up to me and says they want to be on YouTube, we ask them, ‘Are you already planning to be on YouTube?’ If you’re not already planning on coming to our platform, you’re too soon for us,” he explained. “It’s not too different from when Google first came out with their search engine. Nobody ever came to Google and said, ‘Hey, pay us to build a Website.’ When you’ve built a Website, guess what, this search engine here works pretty well. At YouTube, it’s very similar.”

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