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Yahoo's NFL debut bodes well for game streaming: media buyers

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The reach of Yahoo Inc's first global live-stream of a National Football League game on Sunday is likely to result in the league striking future deals with online distributors, media buyers said on Monday.

[SAN FRANCISCO] The reach of Yahoo Inc's first global live-stream of a National Football League game on Sunday is likely to result in the league striking future deals with online distributors, media buyers said on Monday.

About 15.2 million viewers worldwide watched at least part of the Jacksonville Jaguars' 34-31 victory over the Buffalo Bills in London on Sunday. An average of 2.36 million viewers were watching at any given time, according to preliminary data released by Yahoo and the NFL. About one-third of the viewership came from outside the United States, they said.

Nationwide broadcasts of Thursday night games on CBS and NBC's Sunday night games average more than 20 million US viewers per minute, according to Nielsen TV data. The Yahoo data was compiled using different methods than Nielsen.

Games from London are broadcast during early morning hours in the United States, and typically attract smaller audiences than regular NFL games.

In some cases, the stream of the game in London automatically started playing on Yahoo websites. Those streams counted if they played for more than three seconds. About two-thirds of viewership was in the United States, where the game began at 9:30 am Eastern time.

Yahoo had guaranteed advertisers 3.5 million viewers in the United States, media buyers told Reuters last week, though it was unclear if that guarantee specified a minimum viewership for the entire game. Over the past few months, Yahoo dropped its asking price for advertisements during the game from US$200,000 to less than US$100,000, the buyers said. Ad slots were sold out.

Still, media buyers said the game's overall viewership and the participation of more than 30 advertisers signaled a success. "This was definitely a proof of concept and I do think we will see more of it," said Gian LaVecchia, managing partner, digital content at MEC, North America.

While TV networks have locked up rights to other Sunday games through the 2022 season in multibillion-dollar contracts, digital distributors could bid on next season's Thursday night games, or the NFL could sell rights for the handful of games played overseas each season. CBS has a one-year contract with the NFL for the Thursday games.

As the NFL goes into contract negotiations, "they can say 'there are other places we can go to monetize our audience,'" said Barry Lowenthal, president of The Media Kitchen, a New York-based media buyer.

Final audience figures for the Yahoo game will grow once the NFL adds television viewership from local US markets and digital numbers from China.

REUTERS