TNT and Disney's contracts with the NBA go through the 2015-2016 season, so that's when Google and YouTube would be able to swoop in with a bid. The internet video giant has already been making baby steps into the arena of live sports broadcasting overseas. Last spring, YouTube had success broadcasting India's Premiere League cricket matchups-- which drew 50 million views even while restricted to audiences in the region. In the summer it expanded to Japan, where a deal was struck to air that country's Major League Baseball games.

It goes without saying that landing such big contracts as the NBA or the NHL would be an incredible coup for the company as well as the Internet at large. To pull it off, YouTube would need to pony up hundreds of millions in cash-- a sum far exceeding those paid for current content partnerships-- and win over conservative sports league execs. But the kind of traffic and, most importantly, sustained eyeballs the site would attract on a regular basis could be worth the gamble. And then you wouldn't even have to pirate the playoffs.


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