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NFL passes to Yahoo in bid to connect with global fans on mobile

The free stream will bring the NFL?s International Series game in London, between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 25, to Yahoo properties globally, including Yahoo, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Screen and Tumblr, which attract more than one billion monthly users. The move reflects the NFL?s desire to create partnerships that will extend the reach of its product and deliver entertainment across all device types, but especially mobile, the first screen for younger fans.

?The NFL took this step because we want to put our game where are fans are,? said Alex Riethmiller, an NFL spokesman. ?Increasingly that is on digital platforms and clearly the largest and fastest growing segment of digital is mobile. 

?We expect a great deal of consumption of this game between Jacksonville and Buffalo to occur over mobile devices,? he said.

Gauging interest
The knowledge gained from the experience will inform future decisions regarding digital distribution of NFL games.

Being part of sports history.

?This is a great opportunity for the NFL and Yahoo to test and optimize future experiences to gauge the interest and consumption across device types,? said Tom Edwards of the Marketing Arm, Dallas. ?This can help inform the media strategy for future events and where to invest dollars that will drive the most impact.? 

With the consumer now in control of his entertainment choices, organizations that can create and test new partnerships and distribution points will have a leg up on capitalizing on where consumers are, Mr. Edwards said. 

?And they will also have the ability to further align contextual online behaviors to further enhance and personalize the experience of game day.?

According to The Nielsen Company, the 2014 NFL regular season reached 202.3 million unique viewers, representing 80 percent of all television homes and 68 percent of potential viewers in the United States. NFL games accounted for the top 20 and 45 of the 50 most-watched TV shows among all programming last fall. 

The NFL has made bold mobile moves before. 

Early this year it undercut its SuperBowl group-watching heritage with mobile streaming. NBC?s and the NFL?s streaming of the game, halftime show and additional content via mobile platforms prompted some critics to call the strategy a disservice given the event?s social context.

Although the NFL-Yahoo deals speaks to fans? growing appetite for Internet-based media, also called cord-cutting, it reflects a fundamental behavioral shift. 

?Cord cutting over-indexes among millennials, yet sports programming is still a key interest area,? Mr. Edwards said. ?Having an option to experience NFL programming live in real-time as well as free is a compelling value proposition.?   

Making history
For Yahoo, the deal is an opportunity to be part of sports history ? live streaming some of the most valuable sports and entertainment content, available globally, across multiple devices and for free.

NFL has made bold mobile moves.

?Both the NFL and Yahoo share a passion for bringing the best experiences to football fans around the world,? said Adam Cahan, senior vice president of product and engineering for Yahoo. 

?We believe this partnership represents a big first in bringing premier content to a globally connected audience.?

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York