Media buyers, ad execs and anyone who does business online, pay attention! Late last month, something historic happened at Yahoo! headquarters in Sunnyvale, CA. It occurred around 5:05am, and could have possibly changed the face of the web and how people watch sports forever. If you’ve ever tried to watch a sports game without cable, you’ve probably tried everything from those digital TV antennae that stick to your windows, to every live streaming service out there, probably ending up at your neighborhood sports bar once you’ve been defeated by finicky streams and poor antenna placement.
For awhile, Yahoo! has been trying to catch up to Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime, with their own video on demand service called Yahoo! Screen. They may have been onto something when they added the hit sitcom Community to their collection as an exclusive show, but their video service still didn’t seem to catch on. However, the seemingly innocuous event that happened at 5:05 on a Sunday morning might have not only changed things for Yahoo! and their video services, but for sports viewing forever, as they aired the first live stream only football game. That’s right, the game, which was expected to be a quiet one between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills, wasn’t aired on cable TV at all, it was only aired on what is being called NFL Stream.
Since Yahoo hasn’t proven themselves in the area of VOD, they have wisely chosen to make a move to become “the Netflix of” live streaming, and they hope to disrupt the sports watching industry, according to Adam Cahan, a senior vice president in the department of mobile and emerging products. As people shift away from cable and towards mobile and web products for consuming sports media, advertisers can follow their target consumers seamlessly from the TV set to the small screen. The plus side is that with web and mobile viewers, ad placements can procure valuable data about potential customers and how people have interacted with ads, from first glance all the way to conversion.
It’s worth paying attention to, because the figures Yahoo released about their first stream are pretty impressive. They had just over 15 million unique users, with a total of 33.6 million streams, and viewers from more than 100 countries. There were just 2.3 million average viewers per minute, which is indeed much less than a usual game on cable. However, although that might not seem too great, the game streamed perfectly for about 99% of the match and the NFL was actually quite satisfied, since the game would not have been widely distributed in the US anyways.
Is this a harbinger of future NFL games and the direction all broadcast media will eventually go? Cable companies have feared becoming ‘dumb pipes’ for years, and as high profile content begins to emerge through web services like Netflix, Yahoo Streaming and Hulu, it’s hard to have anything but pessimism for the old cable programming paradigm’s future.
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