By the Numbers: The NFL’s First Streaming-Only Game on Yahoo

In a first for the NFL, yesterday’s Bills/Jaguars game in London was broadcast worldwide not on television, but exclusively on Yahoo (except in Bills/Jags broadcast areas, where NFL rules prevent games from not being shown on free TV). To win the rights to test the first streaming-only NFL matchup, Yahoo shelled out a reported $20 million—in return, the company received 96% of ad space during the broadcast (the league took its requisite 4%), in addition to the obvious incentive of boosting their existing on-page CPM rates.

So, how did it go?

Though Yahoo reportedly was forced to reduce its initial asking price of $200k for 30 second spots, the company did secure 30 advertisers for the streaming-only broadcast after promising brands at least 3.5 million US streams. 

According to Yahoo, that (lowball) goal was surpassed as the company saw 15.2 million unique viewers worldwide, 67% of which came from the US. 185 different countries tuned-in to the event, utilizing an estimated 33.6 million streams.

While these numbers might seem low for an internationally-broadcast NFL game (this past Super Bowl drew a record 114.4 million viewers, while the 2013 season averaged over 17 million a game), consider the following:

  • The game took place in London: meaning, for West Coasters, it was a 6:30am kick-off.
  • The Bills & Jaguars are both sub-.500 teams—not exactly a “compelling” matchup.
  • Only 40% of the world even has access to the Internet, a small percentage compared to the 1.9 billion households with a television.

In fairness, Yahoo’s number is artificially inflated in it of itself; the company was “auto-playing” the game directly from their homepage—which, according to their own statistics, receives some 40+ million views per day.

Still, it’s an impressive start for a game that didn’t matter much outside of the teams’ respective fan-bases.

And—perhaps most importantly—Yahoo broadcast the first streaming-only game in style. Even before I caught this thread on reddit singing the HD broadcast’s praises, I myself was quite impressed with the quality of the CBS-produced streaming feed. At one point, I accessed the Bills/Jags game through the Fantasy Football app, not connected to WiFi, and had a crystal-clear picture with no noticeable hiccups.

Whether or not the NFL attempts a streaming-only broadcast again next season is anyone’s guess. I could envision them wanting to extend their reach, and using streaming as a secondary vehicle to do so; but, I imagine that comes with its own set of issues with broadcasters CBS, NBC, ESPN, and Fox.

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