UPDATE: Google gaga for NBA

Google and the National Basketball Association yesterday got down to the hard work of making NBA regular season games, and some classic games as well, available for download.

The new service will let NBA fans download complete games to computers and even portable media players. Steve Hellmuth, NBC Entertainment senior vice president, operations and technology, told the SVG that about half of the games and teams were up and running as of launch and that the NBA and Google hoped to have all of today s games available on Friday.

Google President and co-founder Larry Page unveiled the new service at CES. Games will cost $3.49 per download and will be available 24 hours after the game is concluded. 2006 playoff games will also be available and the service will also include great individual performances in NBA history.

The two organizations have been hammering out the delivery and playout process. Google s video service is based on a proprietary version of the MPEG-4 AVC h.264 standard and requires that all incoming material arrive as MPEG-2 before getting passed through the Google encoder. That s one of the reasons the NBA has signed a deal with Nine Systems, a company based in San Diego and Denver that will pull in the games and then, in turn, Google will pull them into its system.

In the long term we need to figure out a way to encode the content in house, says Hellmuth. NBA Entertainment has a large SGI-based server system at its Secaucus, NJ headquarters that records every incoming feed and also adds very deep metadata tags to the games. The plan is to eventually have a Google encoder at the Secaucus facility so that games could be passed from the SGI server, through the encoder, and then sent to Google already in the Google video format. That will also make it easier for the NBA to add richer metadata to the content so that users can more easily skip to a great slam dunk by Kobe or a slick pass by Kidd. The Google metadata form isn t difficult to use at all, says Hellmuth.

Hellmuth says other leagues and broadcasters should find working with Google to be a comfortable experience. They re a tremendous technology company and we ve been very happy with their dedication to digital rights management, he says. The DRM ties the downloaded material directly to the person who downloaded it. That gives the user the freedom to download Google Players on different computers and devices but ensures that only they can watch the content.

One of the issues that always comes up with streaming sporting events is what to do with commercials. NBA Entertainment is collapsing the classic games that are available but the current games will have the commercials left in.

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