from the and-so-it-begins dept
We've been going on about how we're on the cusp of significant change in the way major sports leagues handle digital streaming for quite a while. While I've long made the argument that one of the few strands by which the pay-for-television landscape is grasping onto yesterday is the broadcast rights of professional and college sports, recent announcements from both Major League Baseball and the NFL, when combined with the NBA's new broadcasting deals, seemed like the starting line in the race to cord-cutting. That said, the race is going to be a marathon and not a sprint, peppered with the kinds of babysteps in the most recent announcement concerning the NFL.
That announcement is significant, though, as it represents the first time the league (any major professional sports league?) has inked a deal to stream, and only stream (outside the game's markets), a game over the internet.
The NFL said in a statement Wednesday that Yahoo is its "exclusive partner to deliver the first-ever live stream of an NFL game to a global audience across devices and for free." The October 25 Buffalo Bills-Jacksonville Jaguars game will be groundbreaking because it won't be shown on television in the United States like every other NFL game is. (It will still air in the Bills' and Jaguars' home markets.). It will be available for streaming, with ads attached, all around the world.Now, before all the football fans in the audience get up in arms over the quality of this particular match, don't bother. If you're a proponent of expanded sports streaming, this is 100% a win, even if watching a Bills vs. Jags game is less enjoyable than pulling metal splinters out of the eyeball of a cute puppy. The NFL is a monster, the best possible partner proponents like me could have hoped for, and even the worst NFL game typically does no worse than decent in terms of ratings. Imagine what it will tell the NFL if the Yahoo stream of this game beats past viewership numbers of its televised counterparts? They're setting the bar low and it will look significant if there's even a modicum of success.
Estimates for the sum Yahoo paid for the right to this broadcast have it anywhere between ten and twenty million dollars, making larger deals with Yahoo, or other players (hi, YouTube!) feasible as broadcast rights replacements to CBS, NBC, Fox and ESPN. Yahoo isn't bullshitting in playing this up.
Yahoo is promoting the event this way: "For the first time in NFL history, anyone with an internet connection can tune in, exclusively on Yahoo, from anywhere to watch a live football game for free. Whether you're on your phone, tablet, laptop, console or connected device -- we've got you covered."Again, it's a step and not a leap, but as steps go it is closer to the moon landing than dipping a toe in the water.