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Apple Looking to Build Curation Service for Live Sports Rather Than Streaming Exclusive Events


Exclusivity rights are still the top-tier request for most networks and services out there, but it looks like Apple has another idea in mind for streaming live sports.

Considering sporting events garner hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions, of viewers, being able to showcase that content to viewers is vital. It’s why some networks, like TNT, worked so hard in the past to land the ability to show NBA games. Or why Twitter and Facebook have been so excited to show off sporting events from various leagues in the U.S.

Sports Illustrated has a report out this week that outlines Apple’s plans as they relate to streaming live sports events. Instead of opting to go the route that others have with expensive exclusive deals, Apple wants to build a curation service. That effort is building off a team at Apple’s Results Way campus, where a small team has been working for quite some time tracking sports:

“They’ve been at it for almost a year now, keeping an eye on minor tennis tournaments, spring training baseball, college lacrosse, even curling. The team manages the sports subsection in Apple’s TV app and its Apple TV interface, highlighting what’s available around the clock. But a well-programmed computer could pretty much deliver that.”

The goal is to build out notifications for important moments in games. If you already follow a team you may have seen this happen: A notification that lets you know a game is close as the final minutes are ticking by. Or when a game goes into overtime/extended time. This team is building out that idea, making it better:

“The workers—including several sports industry vets and at least one former college athlete—look for newsworthy and unpredictable moments, sending notifications when the action gets exciting or deciding something is skippable. Alert users of a triple-overtime NBA game between two lottery teams? Nope. A fourth overtime? O.K., send it.”

And while this curation service is where the company’s attention is being applied now, it doesn’t mean that Apple is completely against the idea of exclusive streaming efforts at some point down the road. Apple’s Senior Vice President, Eddy Cue, told SI “who the heck knows” and that “never is a long time” when asked if Apple will stream exclusive events at some point. Cue added, “I don’t think it’s a problem right now”, which means Apple is not focusing on that effort for the time being.

Cue was asked if Apple is worried about taking on Twitter and Facebook in this regard down the road:

“Asked how much he’s thinking about competing against Facebook and Amazon (both of which have begun airing games) with exclusive rights, Apple senior vice president for Internet software and services Eddy Cue says, “Not a lot, honestly.””

For now, Apple is relying on that curation service:

“Leaning back in a conference room chair a floor below the Sports Ball Room, wearing running shoes, jeans and a faded blue henley, Cue describes a sports curation product that sounds like it was designed for himself as much as for Apple’s users. Searching for an example of its usefulness, he doesn’t turn to any buzzworthy game from the last year. Instead he reaches back for Kobe’s 81-point showing in an otherwise unremarkable Lakers-Raptors game amidst the 2006 NFL playoffs. “It was amazing to watch, but the vast majority even of Lakers fans didn’t see it,” he said. “As a fan, I’ve always looked at it as an opportunity.””

So while Apple isn’t forgetting about sports at all — the Apple TV app does a nice job of putting sports in a one-stop-shop of sorts, and the notifications will be getting better, too. Still, it sounds like Apple knows it needs to have exclusive events at some point in the future, even if it isn’t in a hurry to do so.

[via SI]

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