You can’t go wrong with sports. Seriously, it’s hard to underestimate the value of sports content for a video platform, which is why YouTube’s deal with the ACC (that’s the Atlantic Coast Conference for those of you who don’t watch a lot of college sports) makes a lot of sense.
The deal brings YouTube about 300 hours of sporting content per year. More importantly, the ACC channel will commit to streaming 20 NCAA events live. The channels is also planning a studio show every Saturday during the football and basketball seasons. That’s a lot of sports content, especially for YouTube, which doesn’t have another partner like the ACC.
The beauty of sports is twofold. First, it’s one of the few types of content that still commands a live audience. That means marketers can count on sports fans to tune in for the game, and because they want it live, they’ll watch the ads. I know that sports, specifically baseball, is a major factor in my household’s decision to keep paying for cable.
But there’s a second reason why sports matter so much to a video platform: exclusivity. Sports, unlike news or even entertainment, are about a specific game. Or, put another way, there is no substitute if you want to watch Duke take on Miami. Broadcasters pay big bucks to lock up rights to sports programming. At the end of last year, three networks (Fox, NBC, and CBS) agreed to fork over $28 billion to the NFL for the right to broadcast games over the next nine years.
Now, the ACC isn’t worth nearly that much. As college sports go, it’s a strong conference. The ACC’s basketball teams (including Duke) are almost always contenders for the national championship. In football, the conference isn’t quite as strong. But while the ACC may not be the strongest NCAA conference out there, it is substantial enough to bring other conferences YouTube’s way (provided this experiment works).
Long-term, this could be a very serious partnership (and money maker) for YouTube because it gives them a foothold in sports broadcasting. A mid-level college conference like the ACC is a good place to start because it will allow YouTube to work out the kinks. And because it targets a college audience, it give YouTube the opportunity to reach younger sports fans and change the way they watch the game. After all, I know a lot of sports fans who watch online content, but I only know a handful who watch sports online. Part of that is an availability issue, but part of the holdup — in my mind — is that it just feels weird to watch sports on a desktop or laptop. Unless, of course, it’s the NCAA tournament and you’re watching a quick game while at work. So let’s see how this new ACC channels does come spring of 2013, when March Madness consumes us all.