15.2 million unique users live streamed for free the American football match between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills last month.
Streamed live from Wembley: Bills and Jaguars
It was a historic first for both the NFL and Yahoo, and its success will have important implications for the how sports leagues deliver matches to fans.
The game, the first NFL game to be offered live for free over the Internet, garnered 33.6 million views in total across all devices on the platforms Yahoo and Tumblr.
“We are incredibly excited by the fact that we took a game that would have been viewed by a relatively limited television audience in the United States and by distributing it digitally were able to attract a global audience of over 15 million viewers,” said Hans Schroeder, senior VP of media strategy for the NFL, after the event.
From a technical perspective, the NFL said Yahoo “brought fans a leading technical experience.” It said Yahoo delivered 8.5 petabytes worth of video data to viewers; the video stream “reached HD levels” at 6.74 Mbps at 60 frames per second; and that Yahoo delivered 460 total minutes of video viewed. The game lasted three hours and 15 minutes, which brings the game’s average per-minute audience to 2.36 million.
Many media outlets were quick to point out that an audience of 2.36 million is hardly comparable to the 10 million-plus audiences that TV broadcast games receive. This isn’t exactly a fair comparison, as the game in question, between two low-ranking teams, aired at 9 am on a Sunday, and would have likely reached an audience much smaller than 2.36 million if it had only been aired on, for example, a regional sports network. The game did air on broadcast television in the two teams’ respective markets on CBS, and in Wembley Stadium, London.
It’s unclear if the domestic viewership number is really all that important to the NFL for this experiment. The NFL was able to reach a global audience with this experiment – one that it is looking to expand into, with 33% of the streaming traffic coming from non-domestic markets. It wouldn’t have achieved that reach on linear TV.
More OTT Bidders in the Future
The fact that the NFL seems to so satisfied with the experiment indicates that it may begin opening up future biddings to Internet TV and Web video platforms, such as Hulu, Amazon, Facebook, Yahoo or Google – or maybe even Verizon for its Go90 service. Verizon already has in place a bundle-busting rights deal for NFL games streamed to its wireless subscribers’ smartphones.
Most of the NFL’s rights are already locked up in long-term content deals. It’s very likely live streaming technology and consumer video viewing habits will both dramatically evolve in the next five years.
Yahoo paid a reported $20 million for the rights to stream the game, and is eager to acquire more streaming rights to future sporting events. “We’re seeing a dramatic shift in the industry as audiences’ primary video watching moves away from TV,” the company said. “We were thrilled to join the NFL in setting a new standard for sports programming for our users and advertisers.”
There were, of course, a few hiccups in the streaming experience, and reports indicate viewers watching on a browser at times experienced more problems than those watching on an app.
NBA’s Latest Live Stream Experiment? Virtual Reality
This week, an NBA match will also be live streamed for free for the first time in history, except OTT viewers won’t watch a blurring or buffering video; they’ll be treated to a virtual reality experience that will mimic being present courtside during the match.
The NBA’s Warriors team will be recording and live streaming the game using VR technology, and the VR live stream will be delivered to fans via Samsung smartphones and Samsung’s Gear VR headsets.
Warriors’ co-founder Peter Guber is also an investor in the VR company NextVR, whose technology will be…
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