The game, streamed live via a partnership between Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) and the NFL, represents a significant advance in OTT video. The advance is less a technological victory (there were some complaints about buffering, etc.) than a success in breaking down business barriers.
The event was the first free, global live stream of a regular season NFL game. The Super Bowl has been live streamed since 2011, and other major sporting events such as the Olympics and soccer's World Cup have followed suit.
To the NFL and Yahoo, it made a lot of sense to use last week's London game as an OTT experiment. The UK game traditionally draws a relatively small viewership compared to other regular season games, to say nothing of the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Also, the time difference between the UK and the States meant that the game was happening on Sunday morning Stateside, usually an off-peak time for Internet traffic, meaning a lower likelihood of Internet bottlenecks. So there was little to lose and potentially much to gain. And gain they did: The game garnered more than 15 million unique viewers and more than 33 million total views across all devices.
And there's more: The audience data available for streamed content are far deeper than those for over-the-air broadcast, and even most pay TV broadcasts. In short, OTT lets the content owner and advertisers learn far more about who and where the audience is. Given those double wins, the NFL just might be inclined to expand the OTT availability of other regular season games. The NBA, MLB and NHL already do so to one degree or another, with Major League Baseball arguably leading the way. But pro football draws far more TV viewers than any of the other major televised sports in the United States - according to Sports Media Watch, nine of the top 10 most-watched U.S. sporting events so far this year have been NFL games.
Thus, for Internet service providers, the Bills/Jaguars game is a bit of a wake-up call. Web traffic can be expected to surge if live streaming of regular NFL games goes mainstream. For example, OpenVault reported game time statistics that reflect an average increase of nearly 20% in data consumption across its global customer base as compared to normal Sunday usage. Now multiply that by all the other regular season games, many of which run concurrently, and you can quickly see where things are headed.
That gigabit Internet that everybody's wondering what to do with? Now we know.