Back in June it was announced that the NFL had agreed to terms with Yahoo! to stream this weekend’s London-hosted Bills Jaguars game online entirely for free.
Once the game starts, you can stream it live here
The intentions from such a potential deal are quite transparent, as the NFL is certainly considering a future in digital streaming when it comes to people being able to watch games online. The NFL knows that there has been an increase in piracy when it comes to illegal online streams, and has started to make a few early moves in order to combat this. It is incredibly difficult to stop online piracy, and the NFL is aware they need to adapt to modern media consumption.
As anyone without a RedZone or NFL Gameday pass can attest, if you live out of broadcast market of your favorite team, it can be incredibly difficult to legally watch the game of your choosing via traditional broadcast, which has led to a marketplace of illegal streams. The NFL knows there is a huge financial benefit to eventually moving into online streaming of games, most notably to capture the eyeballs of those who stream illegally. These are eyeballs they can sell to advertisers after all.
It would seem that as the NFL continues to curiously poke around with streaming their games online, it has likely reached a point where they understand the value in at least trying to capture a non-trivial percentage current piracy viewership and generate some monetization from them. The main concern of course being that traditional television broadcast contracts are extremely lucrative, and the more games become available online, the more likely potential cannibalization occurs.
In a lot of ways, it will likely be, at least in the short term, up to the networks to decide whether or not to offer the games streaming online free. After all, they are the ones purchasing these expensive rights. CBS has taken steps this year in offering a way to stream NFL games online without an app or cable subscription and one could certainly expect other networks to follow their lead.
Sling TV currently offers the ability to stream Monday Night Football online and of course those without cable subscriptions are always able to watch their local game via traditional network broadcast, but we anticipate continued modernization of NFL game distribution online. Digital streaming will not slow down anytime soon, and the NFL knows this. Experimenting with a third party streaming provider in Yahoo! this weekend will certainly be telling as to how much monetary value online streaming of games can bring in for the league.