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.