(Reuters) - Google Inc has opened discussions with the National Football League to buy the rights to the "Sunday Ticket" subscription TV service now owned by DirecTV, tech blog AllThingsDigital reported on Wednesday, citing sources familiar with the matter.
The acquisition, if consummated, would dramatically boost the media efforts of the Internet search company, which is trying to ramp up original programming and earn subscription revenue as opposed to advertising income.
The "Sunday Ticket" service allows NFL fans to watch a wide variety of football games outside of their local markets.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and league officials called on Google, Facebook Inc and several other key Silicon Valley companies in recent days, as part of efforts to improve their content, NFL spokesman Alex Reithmiller confirmed on Wednesday. He did not elaborate.
But the tech blog cited sources saying Google CEO Larry Page and YouTube content chief Robert Kyncl specifically discussed acquiring the rights to the popular Sunday Ticket package with Goodell and his delegation.
Google's YouTube last year expanded its stable of original content by promoting and investing in hundreds of dedicated channels, hoping to shed its image as a repository for grainy home videos and to start putting out quality content to boost advertising sales and earn subscription revenue.
A content tie-up between the popular NFL and Google could have ripple effects throughout the media industry, analysts said. It could bolster demand for services that bypass traditional cable, pressure values for some TV and satellite networks, and encourage users to sign up for broadband, Janney Capital Markets analyst Tony Wible said.
DirecTV has sounded upbeat about its chances of renewing the estimated $1 billion-a-year "Sunday Ticket" contract with the league when it expires after the 2014 season.
The exclusive package, which allows fans to watch games outside of their home markets, is considered by analysts an important tool for the satellite TV service in efforts to attract new subscribers.
AllThingsD called talks between Google and the NFL "informal" for now.
Neither Google nor DirecTV responded to requests for comment.
Google's addition of "Sunday Ticket" would mark its biggest foray so far into the realm of quality programming and subscription-video services. It could also accelerate "cord cutting," or viewers switching to online-viewing sources from traditional cable channels, analysts said.
However, the NFL could come under significant pressure from holders of its other TV licenses, the traditional TV and broadcast networks, who would seek to discourage a tie-up with an Internet powerhouse like Google.
"If Google were to secure the Sunday Ticket rights, we may have a situation where consumers can start to create a more viable alternative" to a traditional cable plan, analyst Wible said.
He speculated that along with Netflix Inc and Hulu services now available over the Internet, consumers could begin to create a true "a la carte" package in which people select the specific TV services they pay for.
"While we don't know the pricing for any Google product, it is safe to assume this bundle would be far cheaper than a traditional TV package," he said. "These dynamics have the potential to exacerbate cord cutting and may create a vicious cycle as the cost of programming on traditional TV would move higher with each loss of a (subscriber) - increasing the odds that another will cut the cord."
(Reporting by Edwin Chan in San Francisco and Liana Baker in New York; editing by Matthew Lewis)
George Ferris and Valentine's Day
On February 14th, 2013, Google celebrated both <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/14/george-ferris_n_2685966.html" target="_hplink">Valentine's Day and George Ferris's 154th birthday</a> with this interactive doodle.
On November 7, 2011<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/07/marie-curie-google-doodle_n_1079560.html" target="_hplink"> Google celebrated</a> what would have been the 144th birthday of the mother of radioactivity, two-time Nobel Prize winning scientist Marie Curie.
International Women's Day
Google celebrated International Women's Day 2013 with <a href="http://www.google.com/doodles/womens-day-2013" target="_hplink">this doodle by Betsy Bauer</a>.
One of the great and super nerdy Google doodles, this Jul 23, 2009 logo celebrates the annual Comic-Con conference.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/09/how-to-play-guitar-on-google_n_873895.html" target="_hplink">Google introduced</a> a super cool doodle on June 9, 2011, an interactive electric guitar to honor the 96th birthday of legendary musician and guitar innovator Les Paul. The Google guitar could play 10 notes from users' computer screen.
On February 6th, 2013, Google celebrated archeologist <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/06/mary-leakey_n_2630671.html" target="_hplink">Mary Leakey's 100th birthday</a>.
Google celebrated astronomer <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/19/nicolaus-copernicus-google-doodle_n_2717419.html" target="_hplink">Copernicus's 540th birthday</a> on February 19th, 2013.
On January 18, 2012, Google joined Wikipedia, Reddit and thousands of other sites for a c<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/18/sopa-pipa-google-logo-doodle_n_1212187.html" target="_hplink">ontent blackout in protest of proposed Congressional legislation</a> calling for strict enforcement of U.S. copyright law online. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) drew the ire of web users who feared these bills would lead to unchecked web censorship. As a result of the massive protest, key Congressmen who had previously supported the bills reversed their positions; SOPA and PIPA were tabled indefinitely.
The <a href="http://www.google.com/logos/logos98-3.html" target="_hplink">first-ever Google doodle</a> was a simple stick figure behind the second "O" in the logo on Aug. 30, 1998. It represented the founders' recent trip to the Burning Man festival.
Sir Isaac Newton
On March 1, 2010 Google honored the 366th birthday of Sir Isaac Newton with its first-ever animated Google Doodle.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/31/happy-halloween-google-doodle-pumpkins-video_n_1066989.html" target="_hplink">Google wished</a> users "Happy Halloween" Oct. 31 with a new video doodle that shows a team of crafty Googlers carving six enormous pumpkins to spell out the search engine's name.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/24/muppets-google-doodle-jim-henson_n_979011.html#s371509&title=Jim_Henson_Google" target="_hplink">On Sept. 24, 2011</a> Google's homepage featured a medley of Muppets, honoring the 75th anniversary of the birthday of late Muppets creator Jim Henson. On the interactive logo users could play "puppeteer" by clicking on the colored circles beneath each of the characters, which opened their mouths, and the Muppets followed the cursor with their eyes when you moved your mouse. One of the characters would throw his glasses into the air, and another actually ate a fellow Muppet.
Google honored <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/31/jackie-robinson-google-doodle_n_2589665.html" target="_hplink">baseball legend and civil rights activist Jackie Robinson</a> on his 94th birthday on January 31st, 2013.
Happy Holidays 2011
On Christmas Eve 2011, Google posted a holiday-themed doodle that serenaded visitors with "Jingle Bells".
This Google Doodle went live for some on September 4, paying tribute to Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, who would have celebrated his 65th birthday on September 5.
Google's Oct. 12, 2011 doodle illustration featured a brightly colored interactive tribute to artist Arthur "Art" Clokey, who would have turned 90 on October 12. In place of the company's logo, red, yellow, blue and green balls of clay bounced around and sprang to life at the click of a mouse, in an homage to Gumby, Clokey's best known animated character.
In honor of Pacman's 30th anniversary on May 21, 2010, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/25/google-pacman-doodle-devo_n_588605.html" target="_hplink">Google gave its logo</a> over to the iconic arcade game with the first ever playable Google Doodle. The logo had 255 levels.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/11/martha-graham-dance-google-logo_n_860402.html" target="_hplink">Google celebrated</a> the 117th birthday of dancer Martha Graham -- known throughout the 20th Century as a pioneer of contemporary dance -- with an amazing animated doodle on July 11, 2011.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/09/roger-hargreaves-google-logo-little-men-little-miss_n_859264.html#s276080&title=Little_Miss_Sunshine" target="_hplink">Google celebrated</a> what would have been the 76th birthday of Roger Hargreaves, creator of the "Little Men" and "Little Miss" series, on May 9, 2011. Google featured a colorful cycle of doodles depicting several of Hargreaves' animated characters, including Little Miss Sunshine, Mr. Tickle and Mr. Messy.
Google's 13th Anniversary
Google celebrated its 13th anniversary on September 27, 2011, with a simple, birthday-themed doodle and a scrapbook-style doodle featuring the company's logo letters dressed in a birthday hats and sitting around presents and a birthday cake. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/27/googles-13th-birthday-doodle-logo_n_982798.html" target="_hplink">Check out more photos here</a>.
On Mother's Day May 8th, Google tipped its hat to moms everywhere with a spring-themed logo with a purple flower in place of the "L."
Google celebrated the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton on April 29, 2011 with a Google doodle depicting a festively illustrated panorama of Westminster Abbey, where the royal knot was tied.
On April 22, Earth Day's 41st birthday, Google celebrated the occasion with a colorful animated doodle. Running your mouse over the illustration's playful animal characters brought the scene to life.
On April 16, 2011 <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/15/charlie-chaplin-google-doodle-_n_849587.html" target="_hplink">Google celebrated</a> what would have been the 122nd birthday of one of film's greatest stars, Charlie Chaplin, with a black and white video doodle.
On 12 April 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to enter outer space. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/12/google-doodle-yuri-gagarin-first-man-in-space_n_847914.html" target="_hplink">Google's commemorative logo</a> was dedicated to Gagarin's flight into space.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/08/john-lennon-s-birthday_n_756064.html" target="_hplink">Google celebrated</a> what would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday on On Oct. 9, 2010 with the first-ever Google Doodle video. The video played a hand-drawn animated version of Lennon's song "Imagine."