With more and more traditional television viewers cutting the cord from cable providers, online streaming services have become as commonplace in America as football on Sundays. Literally.
Roger Goodell was in SF today meeting with Yahoo execs, others about potential for adding over-the-top streaming to Thursday game package.
— Sam Farmer (@LATimesfarmer) November 18, 2015
With the success of Yahoo’s London live stream last month, the NFL is headed full steam into the over-the-top market, looking for new and creative ways to turn about seven billion dollars in television revenue into tens of billions of dollars, surely leading to utter global domination.
The math surrounding Yahoo’s first foray into the NFL game has been a bit fuzzy. It was first reported the game between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars had 33.6 million “views” which is amazing until most people caught wise that the total number of worldwide viewers was 15.2 million, meaning either Yahoo was counting the front-page feed of everyone logging on to Yahoo that day as a separate view, or that counted a hell of a lot of people tired of the buffering and opting to refresh their stream over and over again.
Regardless of how the numbers were calculated, the audience exceeded what Yahoo had sold to advertisers, and surely more people around the world tuned in to a game between two mediocre teams than the NFL had anticipated.
That leads to opportunity—one clearly Goodell doesn’t want to miss.
With the Thursday Night Football package up for bid, it’s much easier to add over-the-top streaming as a separate part of the deal for whoever is looking to get television rights. Currently the TNF package is split between CBS and the NFL Network, with late-season games on NFLN using the top CBS crew. In London, Yahoo also used CBS television talent, so it makes sense for the three companies to continue working together on Thursday nights in the future. The big difference between streaming the TNF package and the London game on Yahoo, of course, is that Yahoo’s numbers were based on out-of-market exclusivity. Fans could only get that game online. The NFL isn’t stupid. There’s too much money involved in having Thursday night on network television to go only digital.
Still, this digital dive was expected, with Yahoo being a likely front-runner given the company’s eagerness to get involved in the NFL. There will, however, be competition. From USA Today, analysts from investment research firm MoffettNathanson saw this coming:
Most NFL broadcast deals are wrapped up for several years, but an opportunity arises after the end of this NFL season when CBS’ Thursday Night Football games are up for grabs. “We would expect a very competitive bidding process for these rights going forward,” the analysts say. “Following the successful NFL experiment with Yahoo streaming its London game, other online players could look to acquire these rights, further driving up the price.”
Who “others” are in Sam Farmer’s tweet will be telling, as the NFL will certainly look to cash in with a bidding war between the likes of Yahoo, Google and other streaming companies. (I’m holding out for AltaVista.) Much like the first Thursday Night Football bid process, the NFL went with a shorter window and a group they felt most comfortable working with. Now that the concept has worked—at least in terms of interest if not quality of play—it’s time for everyone to pony up the real money. That goes for the cord cutters as well.