For those concerned about pay-TV's most powerful programming asset leaking out of the ecosystem and into over-the-top channels, this won't come as good news: An NFL regular-season matchup featuring two mid-market divisional cellar-dwellers, streamed by Yahoo from London in the early-morning U.S. hours Sunday, drew an audience of 15.2 million unique users.
Yahoo also announced that it delivered an impressive 33.6 million unique users for the game, which was streamed live from Wembley Stadium.
"We are incredibly excited by the fact that we took a game that would have been viewed by a relatively limited television audience in the United States and by distributing it digitally were able to attract a global audience of over 15 million viewers," said Hans Schroeder, senior VP of media strategy for the NFL.
According to the NFL, live streams for its Thursday night football games -- which are held in prime time and most often feature high-profile teams that are still in contention -- average around 17.6 million unique viewers. Monday night games average around 13.5 million uniques.
For programming networks ranging from CBS to NBC to Fox to ESPN, as well as operators like DirecTV (NYSE: T) -- which collectively pay billions of dollars a year for NFL programming rights -- there is now the very real prospect that Yahoo will try to do this again soon.
Yahoo paid $20 million for the rights to stream the game. There were the usual reports of scattered technical glitches, but by and large, both Yahoo and the NFL were pleased with the overall streaming performance, in addition to the audience metrics.
"We're seeing a dramatic shift in the industry as audiences' primary video watching moves away from TV," said Adam Cahan, Yahoo's senior VP of product and engineering. "We were thrilled to join the NFL in setting a new standard for sports programming for our users and advertisers."
- read this NFL press release
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