Yahoo Pumps Up Viewership Numbers For NFL Game By Autoplaying It On Your Yahoo Home Page

from the your-not-helping dept

Over the summer, when the NFL and Yahoo inked a deal for a one-game test run of an NFL game exclusively streamed by a service provider, I tried to temper everyone’s excitement. Baby steps, is what I called the deal, which it absolutely was. In many ways, the NFL either set this all up to minimize risk to its reputation and revenue, or set it up to fail, depending on who you believe. The game featured two teams expected to be bad, with followings and markets on the smaller side of the league, and the game was played overseas in the UK absurdly early in the morning in all the time zones state-side. That meant that the game would never have the viewership that a prime-time matchup between two good teams might have, but that probably worked for the NFL’s test run, in that any failure would be minimized for all the reasons listed above.

Well, the streamed game happened this past weekend. The results? Pretty good, actually.

Sunday’s live stream marked the first time that a single company had distributed an NFL telecast all around the world via the Internet. It was widely seen as a test for future NFL streaming efforts. The NFL said Monday that it was “thrilled with the results.” Technical reviews were mixed, with many fans reporting a seamless live stream, while others ran into connectivity trouble. Average viewership per minute was high by web live-streaming standards, but low by NFL TV standards.

The average viewership per minute reported by Yahoo was about 2.5 million, which is quite large by streaming standards. By comparison, though, that viewership is something like a third or a quarter of the viewership for most NFL television broadcasts. Still, considering the game started in the wee hours of the morning (4:30am Central Time, for instance), nobody was scoffing at the numbers. In fact, the NFL announced it was “thrilled” with the results.

And that really should have been enough. Unfortunately, Yahoo also stated that 15 million viewers had watched at least part of the live stream as well, which was quickly shown to be largely bullshit the company concocted by counting, oh, anyone who visited Yahoo’s home page.

All morning long, if you visited on a PC, you were greeted with an autoplay stream of the broadcast, including commercials, but without sound. Yahoo says 43 million people a day visit its homepage. That number is presumably lower on a Sunday morning. But if it can get a big chunk of those visitors to see a couple minutes each, it will be in good shape — at least by the low bar it laid out for itself.

You’re not helping, Yahoo. Look, wider streaming of professional sports is going to happen. And advertisers and leagues are going to end up coming along for the ride because, no matter what your local cable company tells you, cord-cutting is a thing and it isn’t slowing down. But trying these little gimmicks to fudge the numbers will only set back the willingness of leagues and advertisers to jump into this. It creates a trust problem, similar to that experienced by other internet advertising gimmicks, where ads are reported to have been seen after being autoplayed, whether they were truly watched or not. This was a big moment for those of us that believe streaming sports is the future. Whatever you think about the viewership results, they weren’t disappointing the principal players involved in this entertainment game. For Yahoo to sully the waters in a transparent and obvious way was silly, as it could only hurt its own effort to secure future streaming deals.

Still, the rest of the news about the streamed NFL game was positive.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: nfl, yahoo

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Yahoo Pumps Up Viewership Numbers For NFL Game By Autoplaying It On Your Yahoo Home Page”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Couldn't get it to work

I spent about an hour tinkering with it, trying various combinations of operating systems and browsers — no joy. And I’ve had numerous conversations, online and offline, with others who bumped into the same problem. Someone inside Yahoo should be doing a serious Internet-scale post mortem on this, following up with everyone who reported failure in order to discern where the problem(s) is/are.

Jake says:

Oh, so that’s why I saw it when I went to check my email the other day. I was wondering about that; I’m not even interested in English football, much less a mutant form of rugby where everyone wears full body armour and stops play to hold a committee meeting every few minutes…

Yes, they included users outside the United States in this little gimmick.

indy says:


Doesn’t seem gimicky at all. They want people to accept this as a mainstream event. They want as many eyeballs, and they clearly show advertisers that people might not stick around or that they might not be watching a stream that autoloads. But guess what? People stuck around quite a bit, and by any measure it was a success. We’re talking about it.

I guess I’m of the opinion that this is how it should be done to draw in interest, at least in the beginning. If yahoo was associated with Football, that’s a powerful association both might want to keep.

John85851 (profile) says:

Playing devil's advocate

If they had tried this with bigger teams or at a different time, would the servers have been able to handle it? So instead of people complaining about watching lower-ranked teams, people would be complaining about how the servers went down and connection speeds were down, and so on.

In other words, there’s always something to complain about. 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

I for one have no love lost for Yahoo, or Bing and Google for that matter, but am glad they are pushing the streaming of NFL games. I stopped following professional football in the 1990s, professional baseball in the 1980s. But if the games were made available on line I just might watch them from time to time. I guess the powers that be figure the internet is a passing fad, and who am I to argue with that?
An Anonymous Coward.

Anonymous Coward says:

All that wasted data

If I was on a limited data plan I wonder if I could sue Yahoo if I opened my web browser with Yahoo as the home page, and then forgot about it, all while it streamed the football game without sound in the background.

Imagine how much data that would eat up for people on limited data plans.

Anonymous Coward says:

Does anyone actually have a problem with this? Why wouldn’t they offer up the stream to every visitor? If I was the NFL, I’d want the broadcast to be front-and-center for every potential customer, even if most of them are going to just close it immediately. Even if someone watches a game for only 5 minutes, they are still likely to see advertisements in addition to being able to check in on the game.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...