Partners to share online advertising revenue

MUMBAI — Google and the Indian Premier League cricket tournament said Wednesday they have inked a pact to stream matches live on YouTube, in what Google is touting as the first major sporting event to be streamed across the globe.

The IPL has been hugely popular worldwide since its inception in 2008, drawing TV audiences of more than 100 million.

Under the pact, Google will have exclusive online rights to the IPL for two years, with the partners sharing revenue from sponsorship and advertising.

There will be 60 matches played in March and April that will be streamed free of charge in every country except the U.S.

Cricket has large numbers of fans in India, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other Asian countries.

The teams attract the best players from around the world and are backed by film stars such as Shah Rukh Khan, who owns the Kolkata Knight Riders.

In 2009 Sony unit MultiScreen Media and World Sports Group paid 82 billion rupees ($1.6 billion) for the 10-year rights. But the companies seem unconcerned about YouTube stealing the TV audience — in fact, it may cut down on the piracy that bedeviled last year’s event.

Sneha Rajani, executive vice president and business head of Sony Max, the network that airs the matches in India, said the deal with Google would not impact Max’s viewership or advertising because theYouTube targets a different aud.

In India, the number of people having access to broadband is limited. Also, the service that is available is patchy and may not be able to support three-hours of live video streaming. It won’t dent our loyal viewership set.”

Attendance at movie theaters in India during the tournament has fallen in the past two years, prompting some multiplexes to provide live in-cinema broadcasts of IPL matches. The last four games of this year’s tournaments will be shown in 3D in select theaters.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more