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Google Passes World Cup Searchers to ESPN

Google doesn't have the rights to show World Cup games or clips. So it is linking up with ESPN, and sending searchers to the sports giant.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

The World Cup starts up again this afternoon, when Mexico plays Cameroon. And if you go to Google looking for a highlight video during the match, the world’s biggest search engine won’t show you one.

But as part of a new deal, Google will direct U.S. Web searchers to ESPN, which is showing all the games and providing in-game highlights as fast as it can get them up.

While Google has integrated other companies into its products before — Google Maps, for instance, now lets users call an Uber car — this is the first time Google has sent searchers to a third party it has a commercial partnership with. It’s both a novel and a commonsense move.

The novel part is straightforward. If you search for other sports events or things that are on TV, Google will already tell you where you can find them. But for World Cup queries, Google will be more hands-on: Google’s “in-line” search results will feature a screenshot taken from ESPN’s in-game footage and will link searchers directly to ESPN’s ESPNfc soccer site.

And if your query is specifically about trying to watch the game live, Google will link you to WatchESPN, the streaming video app/service ESPN offers to pay-TV subscribers.

Here’s what an in-game search result might look like on a phone:

espn google world cup soccer video

The commonsense part is that Google doesn’t have much other choice if it wants to direct its searchers to video, since ESPN is the only publisher with rights to the English-language game footage in the U.S. (Univision has the Spanish-language rights.) ESPN has a deal with Google’s YouTube, too, but it doesn’t have the rights to publish World Cup clips anywhere but its own site.

Google and ESPN aren’t exchanging any money on this deal and won’t share any of the ad revenue each organization generates on its own sites. But ESPN digital head John Kosner says his company will promote its Google partnership on its own properties.

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