Business

Yahoo's NFL streaming experiment nets 33 million hits

Yahoo threw a Hail Mary pass in its first attempt at live streaming an NFL game, and viewership numbers released Monday suggest the company may have hauled in a touchdown.

1st online streaming of an NFL game worldwide declared a success by Yahoo

Millions around the world watched part of the Bills-Jaguars game on Sunday, which saw quarterback Blake Bortles, shown here, lead Jacksonville to a win with a late touchdown drive. (Tim Ireland/Associated Press)

Yahoo declared its experiment with streaming a regular season NFL game for the first time a success, drawing viewers from around the world.

The search company said its international stream of the National Football League game between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday got over 15.2 million unique viewers and 33.6 million total views.

It was the first time an NFL game was streamed live around the world, without the typical broadcasting blackouts, because Yahoo secured worldwide streaming rights for the game.

The game was less attractive for U.S. TV broadcasters in part because of its start time, which was at 9:30 a.m. ET on Sunday. But Yahoo was happy to pay a reported $20 million US for the worldwide digital rights, in part because time zones are less of a concern online, but also because the search company is eager to branch into the growing sports business.

According to two media buyers quoted by Reuters last week, Yahoo had assured advertisers that at least 3.5 million people in the U.S. would tune in, and the numbers released Monday morning suggest that was easily achieved.

One-third of viewers outside U.S.

In total, viewers spent more than  460 million minutes watching part of the game, and a third of worldwide viewers came from outside the U.S. That's welcome news to the NFL, which has effectively saturated the U.S. market but remains an afterthought in most places outside North America.

But Yahoo's numbers may be inflated because the game was automatically playing on its home page, which means anyone who visited Yahoo's site would have automatically been counted as a "viewer" whether they were paying attention to the game or not.

Yahoo boasted that its streaming was in high-definition for the vast majority of the broadcast, with a top speed clocked at 7.64 megabits per second for some viewers.

Yahoo's Cahan said more than 30 top brands advertised during the webcast, "making this a sold-out event."

NFL senior vice-president Hans Schroeder says the league's experiment with Yahoo proved that streaming could be used as the main distribution method for more games and for higher-profile time slots.

Schroeder, who oversees media strategy, business development and sales, watched the game in a conference room at league headquarters where more than 20 different devices were set up to test the feed on a variety of gadgets and through different websites and apps. He says NFL officials were very pleased with the quality of the stream and "any glitches were around the edges." 

The Jaguars beat the Bills 34-31 in the game, which lasted for three hours and 15 minutes.

Corrections

  • Yahoo's NFL streaming experiment attracted 15.2 million unique viewers and 33.6 million total views. An earlier version of this story said 33 million people viewed it.
    Oct 26, 2015 3:55 PM ET

With files from Reuters

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