from the its-beginning dept
We said the trickle would eventually become a waterfall, and it appears to be happening. As cord-cutting continues unabated, the last strand keeping the cable television cancellation orders from avalanching in has been access to sporting events. But what began a ways back as a couple of leagues experimenting with stream offerings has more recently seen teams and leagues look seriously at the future of broadcast deals and how to wedge internet streaming into them. The king of the professional sports leagues is, of course, the National Football League. You may recall that the NFL experimented earlier this year by offering one of the worst games being played overseas only via streaming on Yahoo's site. Well, while the viewership numbers didn't mirror a television broadcast, pretty much everyone that matters realized that the 2.5 million viewers per minute that Yahoo's stream generated was a big win for the first ever streamed-only NFL game.
But perhaps even I underestimated what a success it was in the NFL's eyes, because I didn't expect them to begin immediately exploring full-streaming broadcast options for every Thursday Night NFL game as early as next season.
The occasionally maligned TNF is still a big moneymaker for everyone involved. CBS is paying $300 million this year, and doesn’t even get to broadcast a full slate. (CBS produces all 16 games, but NFL Network airs the final eight.) The ratings are great, and consistently up from previous years. And yet, Thursday night seems like the place for the NFL to experiment. Unlike all its other long-term TV deals, the NFL has been going year-to-year with TNF, and the bidding for the next contract, just opening now, is for a one-year deal with a league option.What's interesting in this is that whoever is streaming the game would be simply rebroadcasting it over the internet, rather than having to sell separate advertising content. That would be both useful and limiting for the stream-provider. Useful, because it avoids the annoyance of repetitive ads due to low inventory, but limiting in that it limits how the stream-provider can monetize the stream.
But here’s the really interesting part:
The league also sent RFPs to several digital companies, like Google, Yahoo, Apple and Amazon, to stream the entire Thursday night schedule on a non-exclusive basis, sources said. The league’s initial plan would have the digital streams serve as a simulcast of the television production — with the same ads and in-game production features.
But what the NFL's interest in streaming should really do is strike fear in the heart of businesses that have been burying their heads in the sand when it comes to cord-cutting, because wider sports streaming is going to hasten the pace.