A globally streamed game between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars drew 15.2 million unique viewers on Yahoo! and 33.6 million streams making it what NFL executives believe to be the most streamed sporting event in U.S. history, according to John Ourand of Sports Business Daily.
A third of the views came from outside the United States and a total of 460 million minutes of game action were streamed globally, but the number of actual viewers is expected to go up when television numbers from Buffalo, Jacksonville and London are added.
The number of viewers is inflated some by the fact that the game was streaming live on the homepage at Yahoo! and anyone who kept the stream open for more than three seconds was considered a view; however, the NFL is feeling good about the numbers.
NFL on Yahoo streams pic.twitter.com/otxbpGIp0q— Darren Heitner (@DarrenHeitner) October 26, 2015
With 460 million minutes streamed over a 195-minute game, an average viewership of 2.36 million per minute could be a record-breaking figure for any event. According to CNN Money, the Super Bowl capped at 1.3 million in February, although it was also on television and most viewers chose to watch that way. Still, while the average NFL game on TV gets 10 to 20 million viewers per minute (and Thursday Night Football gets 17.6 million unique viewers and Monday Night Football gets an average of 13.5 million, per Sports Illustrated's Peter King), it was a healthy number for an Internet stream:
Bills/Jags did 33.6M live streams, 7.7M hrs live video consumed. All of March Madness Live '15: 80.7M live streams, 17.8M hrs live video— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) October 26, 2015
As the first free, globally streamed NFL game there is likely a novelty factor that inflated the numbers some, but given the poor quality of the two teams in the game, the NFL has to be optimistic about the viability of streaming as a medium of the future. In a game that improved the Jaguars to 2-5 and dropped the Bills to 3-4, there were two lead changes in the fourth quarter and that likely drew viewers who tuned in for the finish.
Almost all NFL games are under contract with television markets through 2022, with the exception of Thursday Night Football. By negotiating a two-year contract with CBS for Thursday games that will end after the 2015 season, Roger Goodell has set up the possibility of the rights to Thursday Night Football being purchased by a streaming service, and given the success of Yahoo!'s broadcast, bidders will likely be there.