In what is likely to be the media deal of the year, the National Football League has partnered with Yahoo for the one time internet darling to be the exclusive partner to deliver the first-ever live stream of a regular season NFL game, for free, over the Internet.
The game will be aired live and will not block certain countries and instead be available to anyone, anywhere around the world, making it a first.
The game will be the NFL’s International Series game in London, England, on Sunday, Oct. 25th, 2015, between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars.
In a strange quirk, highlighting Yahoo’s tangled mess of web properties, the game will be shown on Yahoo, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Screen and Tumblr.
The move is obviously a test given its a low value game for traditional TV networks because it airs at 9:30am Eastern, meaning the West Coast won’t watch and there will be less fans on the East Coast as well.
The game is a huge test for Yahoo. It will, in one moment, prove whether the elderly internet company can deliver such an important broadcast without screwing it up. A tecnical difficulty in streaming the game will effectively blacklist the company from any major sports deal, with the NFL or anyone else. So the stakes are high to deliver.
The stakes are also high to see if Yahoo can make any money from the adventure. It will invest considerable sums in marketing and promotion for the event and will have paid the NFL a hefty sum for the privilege. Yahoo will need to demonstrate to shareholders that it can operate such an event at something that is close to economically viable. While its not likely to make a profit, given its the first one, it will still need to show meaningful results.
The league first began shopping the rights to the game in February and reached out to big internet companies including Google, Apple and Amazon before clinching the deal with Yahoo, according to Sports Business Journal.
Which means Yahoo, the least funded of all those rivals, likely paid through the nose. Google’s YouTube in particular was rumored to be well into the bidding, but being a Google company was not willing to be a loss-leader on the adventure, instead calculating its bid based on its vast store of advertising data.
“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,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a media release.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer added, “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.”
But the game isn’t a web exclusive, rather the NFL will make the game available in local markets via CBS affiliates. Given the two are low popularity teams, the move significantly handicaps the viewership for the event, as for most in the local markets it will be business as usual, with not need to hit the web.
While its a very missable test for the NFL, who will face little consequence if the broadcast isn’t a success, it could be argued the event is life or death for Yahoo – and perhaps CEO Marissa Mayer.