Is Google a player in the game of sports media rights?

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Might Google be the next big player in the battle for soccer broadcast rights?

Sports Business Daily journalist John Ourand thinks so – predicting that the search engine giant could be the winner in the upcoming MLS and USMNT rights deals.

With the current MLS and USMNT rights package set to expire in 2014, there has been much speculation over what network will buy the property.

ESPN? NBC? FOX?

But as Ourand suggests, it may not be a television network that is doing the purchasing.

Given the progressive nature of MLS, it hardly comes as a shock that they’re pursuing more non-traditional options of live match distribution.

One should absolutely expect Google to be a major player in the sports rights game going forward. In fact, no major digital company with distribution capabilities should be discounted.

Netflix. Apple. Facebook. Think big.

In fact it was just yesterday that Mark Zuckerberg’s company announced the purchase of sports data streaming start up company, Sports Stream. If that’s not laying the groundwork to combine first and second screen viewing experiences for fans, I don’t know what is.

Of course, there are some hurdles to clear before the digital revolution completely changes the game. Like the ability to handle a subscription package. Ourand notes:

“Before Google can make a splash with a big rights deal, it has to show that YouTube can handle a subscription package — and 2014 will be the year. Look for the company to set something up around U.S. and international soccer, potentially positioning the company as a player for rights in the next decade.”

An MLS on YouTube subscription could be quite innovative, allowing fans to chose from a number of different packages from season long deals to single match purchases.

Whether such a deal gets done during this rights package sale, however, remains speculative.