As another NFL season came to an end, too soon I might add, there were, as per usual, many talking points throughout the season. I would like to single out an event that maybe got „forgotten“ too soon, but as the time goes by, it just might be an important „first“.
The NFL Europe game from London, the one between Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars, became the first ever free live NFL game stream.
YAHOO DECIDES IT’S WORTH THE RISK
Yahoo spent nearly $20M for the rights to broadcast this single game. This decision and the whole project turned out to be quite a success, with over 15M unique viewers and over 33M video streams. Maybe even the most important information about the viewership of this game tells us that about 1/3 of the audience, around 5M, was not located in the USA. They were the international audience NFL desires to have.
NFL confirms that 15,2M individual users is less than the usual 17,6M individual users, that on average watch every Thursday Night Football, but it is slightly more than Monday Night Football’s standard of 13,5M unique viewers on average.
This game lasted for 195 minutes and the average viewership for every minute of the game was about 2.3M viewers, which is significantly less than the 10M-20M viewers, standard viewership for a televised NFL game. Then again, this was the game between Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills, which are firstly, teams from small markets where the game is distributed over regional TV networks and secondly, to be realistic, both Bills and Jaguars were failing to put on a show up until that point in the season. With this game, the NFL would usually be happy to attract 1M viewers each minute that are located outside of these two markets. With that in mind Yahoo can rightfully claim that their 2.3M viewers each minute on average is a great success.
Up until Yahoo’s stream, previous streaming record for the NFL happened during the last year’s Super Bowl, when the stream peaked at 1.3M streamers per minute. Yahoo’s regular season game from a different time zone almost doubled this record.
The fact that this game started between 6:30AM and 9:30AM in the USA, depending on the time zone, makes these numbers even better.
The stat that was extra interesting to the NFL itself are those 5M unique foreign viewers. This gives them an extra motivation to repeat this kind of project, again with less atractive teams, teams from smaller markets, in an attempt to generate even more revenue than before Yahoo’s live stream.
It should not be a problem to attact parties interested in these types of projects. On top of Yahoo, companies like Youtube, Facebook and even Netflix will surely be interested in these projects.
Yahoo and CBS combined to create a good coverage of the game that in the end turned out to be one of the most interesting games of the regular season. Jaguars had a 27-3 lead, only to find themselves behind 31-27 in the forth quarter, but they still managed to regroup and win 34-31.
Yahoo autoplayed the stream on their main page, their fantasy sites and Tumblr. This undoubtedly inflated the number of unique viewers, so Hans Schroeder, SVP of media strategy for the NFL and NFL Network, defends the claims about inflated viewership numbers:
„In our stream count of 33 million streams, somebody had to watch for 3 seconds before it triggers and counted. So if people came on to the Yahoo homepage and were looking for a link or a news story, chances are they didn’t count.”
He added that the NFL’s thoughts on the auto-start for the stream were positive, since it was a great fan-friendly way to build awareness of the game that was played at an unusual time. He adds that the NFL was „thrilled with the results“. This is why nobody should be surprised when a project like this happens again. When it does happen prices for the broadcast rights will surely go up, especially if Yahoo will face competition in a bidding war.
But, then again, Yahoo’s main goal with this project was not to make profit. This was a branding event held in an attempt to improve the company’s image with advertisers.
IS THIS ACTUALLY SOMETHING NEW?
To simplify this as much a possible, at the end of the day, this was just a CBS TV broadcast available online and technologically it was not at all different than what DirecTV users have a privilege to enjoy for several seasons. Technologically it was not groudbreaking, especially when you add into account that there were many quality issues with the streaming and that many viewers still don’t have the technology or know-how to connect the stream from their PC to a big screen TV.
But these issues should not worry anybody, both of them will become non-existant with time.
Yahoo did successfully address some of those issues with their autoplaying, securing the pleasure of watching the game for users that are not familiar with video streaming. This may seem like irrelevant issue, but anybody who tried to watch online streams that require registration, knows how high the levels of stress go while filling the answers to a questionairre when the game has already started.
This was also a good mobile experience, because watching this stream on a smartphone or a tablet did not take anything away compared to the viewers via PC.
NFL CAN’T BE HAPPIER
The NFL really can’t be any happier. They found yet another way to make a great deal of money on less attractive games, that at the same time allows brands that are not associated with the NFL to get linked with this massive entertainment factory in the eyes of a worldwide audience for considerably less money.
In the end, the before mentioned Mr. Hans Schroeder, SVP of media strategy for the NFL and NFL Network, will explain this better than I ever could:
“We feel that’s pretty attractive to “Watch With the World,” which was the tagline. But it could be Thursday Night. For us, most of our game windows don’t hit those parts of the world in primetime. We really feel that’s a benefit for our international fanbase.”
“[on the matchup between Bill and Jaguars, not the most „trilling“ teams] Look, I think we thought about this as an opportunity to expose a game that on its own would have been very limited in distribution. That game probably would have been on at 1pm on Sunday, going just to parts of New York and Florida. We took that game, which would have gotten only a few million viewers, and took it to 15 million people. That’s pretty remarkable.”
And last, but not the least. Actually quite important quote from Mr. Schroeder on the future of this sort of streaming:
“I think two things: One is, when you see the reach digital has, including around our live games, it definitely makes us think about ways to build off new models and new opportunities in the future for how we distribute our games. It also makes me focused on how do we work with our partners to make sure we are making the streaming of all our games as easy for fans as we can. How can we expose more fans to the games, but also build the digital access all fans have to our games.”
Without a doubt, we should expect more where this came from!