Yahoo to Host First-Ever Free Global Livestream of an NFL Game

Portal Will Air Oct. 25 Matchup Between Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills

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The National Football League signed on with Yahoo! for the first free, global livestream of a game, underscoring the growing shift of premium content to the Internet.

The Oct. 25 game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills will be streamed live from London at 9:30 a.m. New York time, the NFL said. While games, including the Super Bowl, are often streamed, this is the first time viewers won't be charged and it will be available around the world. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

"We see more and more of our fans spend more time on digital platforms," said Hans Schroeder, an NFL senior VP. "We want to evolve with the landscape."

The NFL and other content providers are looking for new ways to broaden their audiences as more consumers reach for smartphones or turn on digital set-top boxes instead of tapping broadcast or cable channels. Services such as Netflix, Google's YouTube and Facebook have drawn hundreds of millions of users, threatening traditional media companies.

Google, Facebook and Amazon who also had serious discussions with the NFL about streaming the game through their video services, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment. Google and Amazon did not respond to requests for comment sent on Tuesday.

Yahoo already has been stepping up efforts with more premium video -- airing the situation comedy "Community" after it ended on NBC and offering the wedding of the U.K.'s Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011. The deal with the NFL, the most popular sport in the U.S., marks a new step in Yahoo's video ambitions.

"We have global reach," said Adam Cahan, a senior VP at Yahoo. "We're looking at a world that is undergoing a major platform shift." Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer was "very involved" in getting the partnership done, he said. Yahoo will be in charge of getting advertising for the game.

Football rights are the most lucrative property in the U.S. TV market. The Super Bowl is the most-watched program in the country each year -- more than 114 million people tuned in to this year's championship game between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.

That massive audience doesn't come cheap for broadcasters. ESPN pays the NFL $1.9 billion a year to carry games and highlights, while Fox, CBS and NBC all pay upwards of $900 million. CBS will pay $300 million this year to broadcast just eight Thursday games.

Pundits have long speculated that a technology company with media assets, like Google or Netflix, might bid for NFL broadcast rights. Yet Netflix executives have repeatedly said the company isn't interested in sports, while Google has limited itself to hosting highlights and clips in its search results and on YouTube.

~ Bloomberg News ~

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