As you’re aware by now, Yahoo will stream its first-ever NFL game on Sunday morning. While the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars will play what amounts to be just another game, Yahoo is treating this as a huge global event. After bidding $17 million for the rights to the London game, Yahoo is pulling out the stops to ensure that this is not just a one-time event.
This is virgin territory for the NFL, Yahoo, its advertisers, the internet and its infrastructure. When Yahoo got the rights for Buffalo-Jacksonville, it was not just to stream the game in the United States, but around the world. And there will be no restrictions. As long as you have an internet connection, you can watch the game at 9:30 a.m. ET on your laptop, smartphone, tablet, settop device such as Apple TV, Chromecast and Roku.
For Yahoo, it’s a culmination of a partnership that began with some content sharing to obtaining the rights to Sunday’s game as Ken Fuchs, the Yahoo Vice President for Products told Awful Announcing. He said Yahoo’s global scale, the ability to reach one billion people on multiple platforms, plus its capabilities on live events and its partnerships with sponsors were the main things that attracted the NFL to Yahoo.
But what about the infrastructure and the ability to keep video from buffering? Fuchs said Yahoo has been conducting numerous tests to ensure the game won’t crash the company’s servers. “I don’t think anything has been done on this scale in this period of time,” Fuchs said. “We’ve done a tremendous amount of preparation leading into this in terms of ensuring our back end is solid.”
Fuchs added, “We’ve done other live events, We’ve done the LiveNation live music concert series. We’ve done 135 million streams in the first year of that, so it’s something we have experience with before but we’ve certainly had to do a lot of testing and prepping to ensure that we can deliver a quality experience for users. No one wants buffering.”
As for selling advertising for the game, Yahoo has a different formula than television networks which use ratings, viewership and age demographics for their model. Fuchs said it was a different strategy for Yahoo. “First of all, (brands) understand the power of an NFL game, there’s not that many of them and they understand the reach of that,” Fuchs said. “The fact that this is also a historic event, it’s something that has never been done before, it carries value to a lot of brands. And finally, I think finally and truly understanding they get access to a global audience or a domestic audience if that’s what you’re looking at, but it’s not just a one-time shot, a 30-second spot, you spend your money and you’re done. We’re able to actually deliver insights about that user from what place they’re on, demographic, geography, and then they can leverage that data and information and target those users.”
While CBS will produce the stream and provide the on-air talent to call the game (Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon and Jamie Erdahl), Yahoo will provide all of the elements including pregame, halftime and postgame shows.
Fuchs said the game will be available on multiple Yahoo platforms, “Whether you flip on Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire, Xbox, whether you’re on our sports apps for your mobile phone, mobile web, Tumblr, you can watch whether you’re on Tumblr or Yahoo Sports, Yahoo.com, it’s wherever Yahoo is, the game will be.”
As for a projection of the global audience, Fuchs said Yahoo is not projecting the audience, but the company does have a high expectation for the scale and the reach of the game and it matches their strategy for live events and sports.
Down the road, Yahoo hopes to be in position for a package of NFL games once the current TV contracts are done, and Fuchs said as watching habits change from television sets to mobiles, tablets and settop devices, the NFL is on top of the landscape and looks for new ways to distribute its games and Yahoo will be ready to be there if a package is set aside for streaming media.
So as we head into a new way of watching the NFL, here’s what we know about the Buffalo-Jacksonville game on Sunday:
- 8 – 9 am EDT – Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football Live (FFL): Pregame show produced from Yahoo studios in Sunnyvale, CA. Katie Couric will be featured and there will be an interview with Bills Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly.
- 9:30 am EDT – Kickoff: Buffalo Bills vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, live from Wembley Stadium. Viewers will have feeds with three audio options:
- Primary Game Broadcast: Play-by-play commentator Kevin Harlan, analyst Rich Gannon with sideline reporter Jamie Erdahl.
- Yahoo Studios: Host Larry Biel, along with former NFL players Kirk Morrison and Shaun King, and team bloggers will break down the game, answer fan questions and talk fantasy in real-time.
- Spanish language: SAP call with Alfredo Bejar
As we mentioned on Friday, there will be fewer commercial breaks allowing for a better flow of action. There will be separate commercial feeds produced for the American audience and the global audience. In Buffalo and Jacksonville, the game will be seen live on the local CBS affiliates (WIVB in Buffalo, WJAX in Jacksonville). According to Bloomberg, the game is sold out and some 30 brands will advertise their products during the game:
American Express, Nationwide, Kohl’s and Toyota are among the more than 30 brands that will advertise during the game, Yahoo said this week. Those companies will also have access to Yahoo’s viewership data to target fans after the game.
Buffalo-Jacksonville may be a pedestrian matchup, but for Yahoo, it’s the Super Bowl and for streaming media, it could be a watershed moment in live events that leads to more NFL games on the internet in the not-so-distant future.