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YouTube, NBA to cooperate

February 27, 2007|Greg Johnson | Times Staff Writer

YouDunk is coming to YouTube.

The NBA on Monday unveiled plans to cooperate with YouTube.com on a partnership that will encourage fans to post online videos of their best real-world basketball moves. The league also agreed to share a limited amount of proprietary game and behind-the-scenes video footage with YouTube, an online video-sharing website owned by Google Inc.

The YouTube deal surfaced less than a week after the league announced that fans soon will be able to use the NBA.com website to create personal "mixes" that incorporate game highlights and music tracks from select record labels. Both moves are part of the league's ongoing effort to leverage -- and retain control over -- digital content spun off by games.

"What we're trying to do is work more closely with YouTube to give people a destination where they know they'll find some legitimate NBA content," said Steve Grimes, vice president of interactive services for NBA Entertainment. "We're also trying to provide our fans with a forum where they can showcase their basketball moves to us and the world."

Sports leagues and their media company partners are searching for the right blend of carrot and stick when it comes to fans who like to incorporate game footage into what amounts to home-produced videos that are shared online. The fans mix video of dunks, blocked shots and the occasional on-court brawl -- using footage culled from TV broadcasts -- with music culled from their personal collections. The result is short, action-packed videos, often with rock and rap soundtracks.

Type "NBA" into the YouTube search engine and you'll find more than 20,000 videos that incorporate NBA content. Sports fans who enjoy creating the videos often try to one-up each other by producing increasingly elaborate videos. But some of what's available at YouTube, Yahoo and other video-sharing sites isn't likely to pass muster with leagues because of X-rated song lyrics or how the video content is displayed.

The NBA deal with YouTube came several months after the website struck a similar deal with the NHL. In both cases, YouTube agreed to work more closely with the leagues to more quickly take down offensive video. When asked whether similar deals are in the works with the NFL and Major League Baseball, Chris Maxcy, head of business development for YouTube, said to "stay tuned."

Such content deals are important for YouTube because popular video draws consumers who have myriad online destinations to choose from.

But, a few weeks ago, media giant Viacom demanded that YouTube remove 100,000 clips of television programming that had been posted without permission. And MLB regularly demands that YouTube and other online video sites remove its video content.

Leagues know that thousands of action-packed sports videos available on YouTube can be seen as a testament to fan loyalty.

The catch is that leagues expect to be compensated when fans post game-related video on YouTube or another company's website.

The NBA hopes to lure fans away from YouTube with its newly unveiled "NBA Highlight Mixer," an online system that lets registered fans create and share custom videos -- think LeBron James dunking to a hot rap group's soundtrack.

Fans will be able to share their work, but the website won't let scofflaws copy NBA game action and upload it to other websites.

The NBA is betting that its editing system and the music that will be available will attract fans who now post their videos on YouTube.

The league also is banking on its rich storehouse of high-quality game footage to draw and keep fans who have cut their online video teeth at YouTube and other sites, Grimes said.

greg.johnson@latimes.com

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