YouTube goes after sports fans with Turner March Madness channel

Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) online video powerhouse, YouTube, is continuing to get in on the streaming sports game: The OTT provider announced a deal with Turner Sports and has launched an official channel for the 2015 March Madness tournament.

YouTube March Madness channel

Turner's March Madness channel on YouTube. (Source: YouTube/Turner Sports)

The deal comes in the wake of a similar agreement with the National Football League in late January.

The March Madness channel, like the NFL's YouTube channel, will feature highlights and game clips; unlike the NFL, it will also offer archival clips from past tournaments.

"Our new partnership with YouTube gives college basketball fans more ways to discover and watch the plays and storylines that everyone will be talking about during March Madness," said Mark Johnson, vice president of business operations, Turner Sports, in a release.

Sports broadcasters and the leagues themselves are increasingly looking to engage fans across platforms--while fiercely maintaining control over sports content, particularly live events. The NFL rolled out an online platform last fall, NFLNow.com, that mainly offers highlights and archive footage, even to authenticated users. Its live stream of the Super Bowl appeared primarily a way to demonstrate its online capabilities and drive more online engagement.

Likewise, ESPN has never stopped playing hardball when it comes to its licensed sports content, whether on traditional pay-TV or online. The network is reported to be the priciest channel on Dish Network's (NASDAQ: DISH) new Sling TV over-the-top service, at a MoffettNathanson-estimated $6.65 per subscriber per month. And only authenticated cable subscribers (and Sling TV subs) get full access to its WatchESPN streaming app.

YouTube is increasingly finding itself in a race with other online giants for online video content. The biggest threat, according to The Wall Street Journal, is Facebook, which also did a deal with the NFL for highlights and clips. Twitter has an advertising partnership with the league, and YouTube is of course competing for views with NFLNow.com.

For more:
- see the release
- WSJ has this story

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