Yahoo's live-stream of a regular season game between the Jaguars and Bills may have broken ground for a bigger streaming agreement with the NFL. The online video provider is reportedly in talks with Commissioner Roger Goodell over adding an OTT streaming component to the league's Thursday Night Football offering.
The rumor was reported in a Twitter post by Los Angeles Times writer Sam Farmer, who tweeted that Goodell was in San Francisco on Nov. 18 to talk with Yahoo about the possibility of a regular streaming gig:
Roger Goodell was in SF today meeting with Yahoo execs, others about potential for adding over-the-top streaming to Thursday game package.— Sam Farmer (@LATimesfarmer) November 18, 2015
Viewing numbers for the Oct. 25 game in London were seen as pretty decent by both Yahoo and the NFL. The Web provider chalked up 15.2 million unique views, a third of them from international viewers. Yahoo also sold all of its advertising slots for the live stream. "Regardless of how the numbers were calculated, the audience exceeded what Yahoo had sold to advertisers, and surely more people around the world tuned in to a game between two mediocre teams than the NFL had anticipated," an Awful Announcing article said.
Licensing for Thursday Night Football is currently split between CBS and the NFL Network, but is coming up for bid soon, according to AA.
Goodell made no mention of the rumors during an appearance on The Doug and Wolf Show in Phoenix.
Does that mean Thursday Night Football will go OTT-only? Highly doubtful: NFL's broadcasting contracts are still very lucrative and the league works closely with CBS on TNF. It's also not clear that Yahoo will be the NFL's choice of streaming provider: The organization has been famously cautious about how it gets into the OTT game, because it's very protective of its brand. Its one-time deal with Yahoo may have been just that, as the NFL tested another facet of the over-the-top market.
Yahoo, in the meantime, is facing flak from an activist investor, Starboard Value LP, which wants the Web provider to hang on to its stake in Alibaba (one Yahoo has been trying to spin out, but is hampered by tax issues) and instead sell off its core search and display ad business. Starboard is siding with analysts that feel Yahoo's Asian stakes -- Alibaba and its 35 percent stake in Yahoo Japan -- are its most valuable asset.
Its share of Alibaba is worth approximately $30 billion, while Yahoo's search and display ad business combined bring in the majority of its revenue.
The pressure being put on Yahoo by Starboard could impact any negotiations that might be taking place between it and the NFL -- if they're taking place at all.
Neither Yahoo nor the NFL had responded to a request for comment on the rumors by press time.
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