Last month it was revealed that the NFL was interested in exclusively streaming one of its regular season games directly to consumers. Today we have confirmation that it will indeed be the case from the league’s annual meetings. The league announced that Bills-Jaguars in London will be aired digitally across the globe for the first time in NFL history. The game will presumably be offered to interested digital companies to be streamed independent of any of the league’s current television rights deals. That means Bills-Jags won’t be aired on ESPN, CBS, NBC, or Fox… nor will it be on Sunday Ticket. Instead, the game will be aired on broadcast television in local markets and on a yet to be determined digital platform.
The first question that comes to mind is whether fans would have to pay to watch this game. Most NFL fans would probably balk at forking over $9.99 or what have you for an Apple or Google stream to watch Bills-Jags in London. We’re not that football obsessed as a nation. (Actually, we just might be that football obsessed, but that’s another story for another day.)
Let’s not kid ourselves over why the NFL is doing this. They’re doing it for the same reason they do anything else – so Roger Goodell can upgrade from using $5 bills as tissue paper to $10 bills. There’s money in selling one game, even if it’s Bills-Jags at 9 in the morning, to a digital company because it opens up business with a new digital partner. Apple, Yahoo, Google, Netflix, etc. are all going to be players for the rights to this game.
And let’s just say YouTube wins the rights to air Bills-Jags and they stream it for free across the globe. The potential to reach new audiences is almost limitless. We’ve been moving down this digital path in sports media for some time, but this deal could lead to the dam bursting and the digital age truly beginning. An NFL regular season game on a digital platform is an enormous deal. And whoever the NFL partners with, it could be the beginning of a partnership that leads to more live games down the line.
Let the bidding begin.