Following an unconfirmed report earlier this week that the NFL would be announcing a two game series in New Zealand, news broke today that the NFL is on the move again. Yahoo, the tech giant perhaps best known for it’s role and visibility during the 90’s and early 2000’s in shaping the internet landscape, has just acquired the rights for the NFL’s first live-stream game.
The NFL announced the news via press release earlier today, saying that Yahoo will be the “exclusive partner to deliver the first-ever live stream of an NFL game to a global audience across devices and for free. This partnership will bring the NFL’s International Series game in London, between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars on October 25, to Yahoo properties globally, including Yahoo, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Screen and Tumblr, which attract more than one billion monthly users.”
The game could end up being just the first of many, as several other web companies have expressed interest in trying to lure the NFL away from its traditional network television contracts and onto the web. Reportedly Google also expressed significant interest in the rights to the game, but lost the bidding war, as Yahoo emerged victorious with an undisclosed ‘eight-figure sum’.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been vocal and active in his quest to raise the NFL, the most profitable sports league in the United States, to new heights. In a statement regarding the partnership, Goodell said, “The NFL has always been committed to being at the forefront of media innovation. Through this partnership with Yahoo—one of the world’s most recognizable digital brands—we are taking another important step in that direction as we continue to closely monitor the rapidly evolving digital media landscape.”
Additional details of the game like the quality of the two teams playing – the Bills haven’t been to the playoffs in over 15 years, and the Jaguars since 2007 – as well as the time that the game will air internationally, will provide an interesting market test as the NFL presumably looks to further explore live streaming games. As CNN reports, “CBS, NBC and other networks own most of the games through the early 2020s, but there is a slate of Thursday games that might be available starting in 2016 — if CBS doesn’t hold onto the rights.” Interestingly enough, the live-streamed Yahoo game will produced by CBS, as confirmed by Kevin Clark of the Wall Street Journal via Twitter.
President and CEO of Yahoo Marissa Mayer said in a statement, “We’re thrilled that the NFL has chosen Yahoo for this historic opportunity. It marks a significant change in the way users can access this amazing content. The NFL and Yahoo have both long engaged football fans around the world. Our partnership provides the ultimate football experience—with digital availability, designed for the modern fan.”