April 11, 2003 1:54 PM PDT

Yahoo scores deal with NHL

Yahoo confirmed Friday that it has begun offering streaming video highlights of National Hockey League playoff games as part of its Yahoo Platinum service, making the NHL the latest major sports league to join Yahoo as a content partner.

The deal includes highlights of the NHL Playoffs, which began earlier this week. Footage includes plays of the day, plays of the week, game highlights and "cool shots" video clips.

The NHL will not provide live audio or video of games, according to a Yahoo representative. The representative declined to comment on the terms of the deal. However, an NHL representative said the arrangement would only last for the length of the 2003 playoffs and that video would be streamed using Microsoft's Windows Media Player only.

This is not the first time Yahoo has offered NHL content. The company used to Webcast NHL games through its Broadcast.com subsidiary, but that deal concluded once the NHL inked a new agreement with MSN in 2001.The NHL representative said its partnership with MSN would not change.

Yahoo Platinum highlights Yahoo's attempt to compete with RealNetworks, whose RealOne SuperPass video streaming service has amassed hundreds of thousands of subscribers and a number of well-known content providers. RealOne partners include news services such as ABC News and CNN, and sports leagues such as Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association. RealOne charges $9.95 a month for its basic service.

Launched in March, Platinum is Yahoo's most ambitious attempt to sell digital entertainment to Web users. The service's basic package offers clips from Fox's "American Idol" and "CBS MarketWatch," as well as offerings from ABC News, including "World News Tonight," "20/20" and "Good Morning America," for $9.95 a month.

For $11.95 a month, Yahoo offers a sports package that includes NASCAR, archived games from the NCAA men's basketball tournament and, in a couple weeks, clips from Warren Miller Entertainment. The package used to cost $16.95 and included NCAA basketball games streamed live, but Yahoo decreased its price after the conclusion of the basketball tournament.

Making branded video content available is crucial for Yahoo's CEO Terry Semel. The former studio head for Warner Bros. has publicly stated his intention to turn Yahoo into the Net's main recipient of Hollywood's marketing dollars and into a purveyor of name-brand content outlets.

Yahoo has not released any subscriber numbers for Platinum, instead lumping them into an overall figure--2.9 million--for paid users of various services, ranging from online personals to digital subscriber line access with SBC Communications.

 

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