Last Sunday at 9:30 am ET, two small market teams, the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars, played an NFL football game in London. But unlike the last London game that was seen on CBS, this game was available on Yahoo. And the question was whether it was a success.
It is the kind of question that is filled with too many variables. The fact that it was in London, which no NFL fan thinks makes sense, or the fact that because of the time zone, it was seen at 9:30 am in the East, 6:30 am in the West, or that it was between two small market teams, all affects how successful such an experiment could be. The NFL at least knows not to show a big market team or air it against another broadcast game; that would be economic suicide. Still, the question of its success matters little.
How a game is delivered to a TV set matters much more than whether it was through cable or satellite or wireless. The NFL fan will watch the game. The question really for the NFL remains how do they make the most money and for now broadcast and satellite beat Yahoo streaming any day of the week. It is only when there is no other game to watch or at an absurd time that Yahoo has a chance to own more NFL games. Will Yahoo outbid NBC for the Sunday Night Game or will Yahoo outbid ESPN for the Monday Night Game? When they do, they will charge as much as they can get for access to the game and for advertisers to promote in the game.
For this first experiment, Yahoo charged a fraction of what advertisers pay for broadcast. Most likely they reached only a fraction of the audience that such a game could get if on at a regular time. The New York Times looks deeper at the numbers and questions how successful the Yahoo game was in reaching an audience. I did turn it on for maybe 2 minutes of the game. It looked like any other game with all the graphics similar to what a broadcaster would do. But watching football on the tablet or computer is not like watching on the TV. Maybe I could have pushed it to the TV, but I knew there were better matchups later in the day at 1pm ET, 4:30 pm, and 8:30 pm.
Will we one day watch football streamed to our TV; absolutely. As a technological shift, it is inevitable; but, as for when we watch it, 9:30 am is way too early.