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YouTube TV to improve service before pursuing more sports deals, CEO says

Company wants to build on its partnership with the NFL, which includes NFL Sunday Ticket, CEO Neal Mohan affirmed.

Company wants to build on its partnership with the NFL, which includes NFL Sunday Ticket, CEO Neal Mohan affirmed.

The new YouTube TV multi-view feature allows streamers to watch multiple sports or news channels from a single screen. (Graphic by The Desk)
The new YouTube TV multi-view feature allows streamers to watch multiple sports or news channels from a single screen. (Graphic by The Desk)

Google’s streaming cable television alternative YouTube TV is sitting pretty happy with its NFL Sunday Ticket package, and the service wants to improve its overall offering before pursuing additional sports programming rights in the future, YouTube’s chief executive recently affirmed.

Speaking at the Bloomberg’s Screentime conference last Friday, YouTube CEO Neal Mohan said the company wasn’t ruling out a possible bid for additional sports rights, but is more focused on building out its current streaming offering to make the user experience even better for its customers.

“We’re taking it one step at a time right now,” Mohan said on Tuesday. “We have the NFL — [NFL] Sunday Ticket is a big area of focus for us, getting that viewer experience right, making that game-day experience on Sunday flawless and seamless — and you should expect from us more innovation there, in terms of products, creator integrations, all the things that our fans, especially younger fans of the NFL on YouTube, expect.”

The NFL Sunday Ticket package offers football fans live access to games aired on regional CBS and Fox affiliates beyond their home area. The product was exclusive to satellite broadcaster DirecTV until this year, when the rights moved to YouTube TV and YouTube’s streaming marketplace Primetime Channels as part of a $2 billion agreement with the National Football League.

Since then, Google has rolled out several features that are targeted at sports fans, including a curated multi-view experience that allows subscribers to watch multiple games from a single screen. The multi-view feature debuted during the NCAA March Madness tournament earlier this year and became a permanent staple on YouTube TV prior to the start of the NFL’s 2023-24 season.

Some have speculated Google and YouTube are in a prime position to pursue other sports programming deals, including rights to the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) national telecast rights. Those rights are currently shared between the Walt Disney Company’s ABC and ESPN and Warner Bros Discovery’s TNT Sports, with their contracts set to end early next year.

Mohan said going for additional live sports rights isn’t out of the question for YouTube, but the company is pretty happy with the way things are now, and would rather spend more energy improving the streaming experience for subscribers of its $73 a month cable replacement.

That includes decreasing the latency of live programming feeds, improving the picture quality, adding more multi-view options, “and all the features and things like that which users of YouTube TV have known and loved on Sunday Ticket.”

With respect to NBA rights, Mohan said the company was pleased with the state of its current partnership with the league, which includes sponsoring some nationally-televised games and distributing the league’s cable channel NBA TV.

Instead of focusing on getting more NBA rights, Mohan suggested the priority of YouTube was to better enable creators on its main platform to offer more analysis of the games.

“My 15-year-old is a huge sports fan, just like me,” Mohan offered. “He watches a lot of NBA highlights, and he watches them on YouTube through the lens and analysis of his favorite creators. But, in terms of our focus right now, it’s about the NFL experience.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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