Yahoo gets the NFL and the NFL gets a global audience

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Yahoo will be the NFL’s exclusive partner in streaming the Oct. 25 game between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars, the first time a regular-season NFL game will be (legally) streamed around the world.

For her part, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said she was “thrilled” the company was getting a chance to showcase the Internet portal’s technology.

For the NFL, it’s a hedge against the future… which certainly will include streaming games.

“We have cast our lot with TV through 2022, so obviously we believe in the power of television for our games. But, things are changing, and changing fast in the media,” Brian Rolapp, executive VP of media at the NFL told Sports Illustrated.

They could change even faster if the Yahoo stream is successful. The NFL and CBS are on a year-to-year contract for Thursday Night Football, something that drew a lot of attention – and potential bidders – when the contract came up last year.

Google reportedly was one of the companies interested in streaming those games.

Yahoo, meanwhile, is paying the NFL somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million – and possibly as much as $20 million — to stream the game from London. For folks on the East Coast, the game will start at 9:30 a.m., an unusual kickoff time to say the least.

But it’s not Jaguars or Bills fans the NFL is really trying to reach with this “experiment.” And, the hypothesis really isn’t “The Internet handle the streaming of an NFL game.”

That was answered during the World Cup when, despite massive spikes in usage, the Internet didn’t “break.”

The real hypothesis is: “There are other markets we can interest in American football” That’s something that’s become more critical as the U.S. market has become saturated, with games being played not only on Thursday, Sunday and Monday, but occasionally on Friday and Saturday, too.

“We need to prepare for the future,” the NFL’s Rolapp said.

And that’s where Yahoo – with its one billion users worldwide (or Google or Facebook) comes in.

The league is counting on Yahoo’s household name to get the game onto screens that might otherwise ignore it… even if it’s just to satisfy viewers’ curiosity.

“Through this partnership with Yahoo – one of the world’s most recognizable digital brands – we are taking another important step in that direction as we continue to closely monitor the rapidly evolving digital media landscape,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement.

And, it the Internet doesn’t break, that’d be nice, too.

Stay tuned.

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