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Livestream signs biggest partner yet in IMG Media Worldwide

The company aimed at becoming the Internet's prime live-event streamer scores the promise of a large cache of high-profile events by joining forces with the talent and marketing agency behind Wimbledon and New York Fashion Week.

Livestream broadcasts games of IMG client National Rugby League on devices like the Roku streaming box in markets where the games aren't televised. Livestream
Livestream, which is aiming to use live events to grow into the place everyone goes to stream live video to the world, announced its biggest partnership deal Wednesday with IMG Media Worldwide, a sports and fashion talent and marketing agency.

It's the "single most impactful deal" Livestream has ever signed, Livestream's Chief Executive and co-founder Max Haot told CNET in an e-mail about its partnership with IMG. "This partnership will see IMG and Livestream stream tens of thousands of high-quality live sports events every year, from the US, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia."

Hoat has a long history with IMG, having cut his teeth working on interactive media at the company in London for nearly a decade.

David Salmon, IMG's head of technology and strategic partnerships, said Livestream was attractive for providing a good set of tools to connect to mobile devices, televisions, and desktop computers.

"In general, live streaming as a medium is still kind of convoluted," he said. "Live streaming is still far harder than it should be, and you are dealing with lots and lots of immature technologies. Livestream really helps bridge that gap."

IMG, traditionally an agency for athletes, in recent years has expanded into marketing, sports training, and media for fashion, music, and collegiate sports enterprises. IMG tested the waters with Livestream before signing the long-term partnership by working with the service to stream Wimbledon, The Open Championship, the National Rugby League, and major European football league games.

Video falls into two categories in the online world: live and so-called "library," the latter of which is offered by services such as Netflix and Hulu. Live video has long been a trickier proposition than library, which has the benefit of lead time to prepare and polish its content and the technology behind it before it is viewed. Live must work toward the goal of getting the most popular content to the most people, while facing a more challenging technological feat: bringing high-definition video at an adaptive bit rate that won't look like a pixelated mess on 50-inch plasma.

As its technology has advanced to the point at which making live video look good is no longer the biggest hurdle, Livestream has adopted the strategy of targeting live-events partners as its platform of growth. By signing on partners with an existing niche market, Livestream is aiming to collect a diverse and large base of viewers and content producers who conglomerate into a bigger whole. It's a strategy to gather the scattered fans who don't form a critical mass that's large enough to attract a traditional television broadcaster.

Alongside the announcement of its IMG partnership, Livestream said it is opening a London office to handle its Europe, Middle East, and Africa operations and sales. The company said it has about 10 open positions in development, operations, and sales, and it will continue to grow in the months to come. Globally, it has more than 130 employees in offices in New York and satellite offices in Los Angeles, India, and Ukraine.