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 Yahoo.com 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.


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  • identicon
    Dave, 28 Oct 2015 @ 2:07pm

    Still, considering the game started in the wee hours of the morning (4:30am Central Time, for instance)
    Actually, kick-off was at 8:30 AM Central time

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Oct 2015 @ 2:14pm

    So what...

    I do not go to yahoo because they like to shove media up in my grill right off the bat.

    But this may be something others like.

    I hate google but they give me a nice and clean empty page with only a sparse action graphic from time to time.

    Really handy when you are remoting and fixing the families broke crap.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Oct 2015 @ 2:15pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jake, 28 Oct 2015 @ 2:27pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Oct 2015 @ 2:43pm

      Re:

      Well, I'm a "bloody yank' and if I got fed a stream of Australian Rules Football I'd be watching a few minutes to see what it was about.

      It would be interesting to see the US referees dress as dapper as the Australians!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    indy, 28 Oct 2015 @ 2:30pm

    Gimmick?

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Oct 2015 @ 3:29pm

      Re: Gimmick?

      It isn't gimmicky to show it on the main site. It is gimmicky to show it on the main site and claim them as partial viewers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Oct 2015 @ 3:45pm

    The most amazing part is...

    ...that anyone still uses Yahoo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Oct 2015 @ 4:03pm

    Grammarer

    My not helping what?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 28 Oct 2015 @ 5:19pm

    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. ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Oct 2015 @ 6:57pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2015 @ 6:41am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 29 Oct 2015 @ 7:46am

      Re: All that wasted data

      It's hard enough for me to understand why anyone is going to the Yahoo website in the first place. I can't even begin to imagine that there is a nontrivial number of people who have it as their homepage.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Nutman, 29 Oct 2015 @ 7:10am

    Kick off definitely wasn't at 4:30 AM. It was early by football standards (as it is with every one of the many London games they do) but it wasn't middle of the night. Also the feed never showed up on my Yahoo main page, I had to search and dig for it. So not everyone was added into an inflated number.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2015 @ 8:45am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2015 @ 9:24am

    This doesn't surprise me in the least. It's perfectly inline with the "> of the Internet" as a trend I've been seeing lately.
    Think about it, you browse your TV channels and find an ongoing sports broadcast on one channel.
    Same here, you "browse" your bookmarks and find an ongoing sports broadcast on one website.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2015 @ 9:37am

    The game was broadcast by local TV channels in the teams' home markets - which is presumably how a sizable chunk of people watched the game. I'd be curious to see the total viewership count with those included.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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