Exclusive: NFL to live-stream all London games, in talks with Apple, Google

Fri Jan 8, 2016 12:30pm EST
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By Jessica Toonkel

(Reuters) - The National Football League is planning to live-stream all three games scheduled to be played in London next season, and Apple Inc AAPL.O and Alphabet Inc GOOGL.O subsidiary Google are among the technology companies in talks to buy the rights to conduct the streams, said two sources familiar with the situation.

Last year, the NFL partnered with Yahoo Inc YHOO.O to live-stream a London game, the first time a technology company has streamed a game for free to viewers. Live-streaming is becoming increasingly popular as more consumers cancel their cable subscriptions, a practice known as cord-cutting. Winning a partnership with the NFL to live-stream one or all three games would be a big victory for a technology company.

Apple owns Apple TV and Google owns YouTube. If Apple or Google win the rights to stream one or more games, it would be a first for either company.

The NFL wants to live-stream more London games after last year's streaming experiment was deemed a success, according to the sources, who asked to remain anonymous because they are not permitted to speak to the media.

It is unclear if the NFL seeks to sell the rights to stream all three games as a package or individually, or how much the league is asking for the rights.

Representatives for the NFL, Apple and Google declined to comment.

About 15.2 million viewers worldwide watched at least part of the live-streamed game in October, which was broadcast during early-morning hours in the United States, therefore drawing a smaller audience than regular NFL games. In some cases, the stream of the game automatically started playing on Yahoo websites and consumers who clicked on those websites were counted as viewers if the streams played for more than 3 seconds.

An average of 2.36 million viewers were watching at any given time, according to data released by Yahoo and the NFL. About one-third of the viewership came from outside the United States.   Continued...

The Detroit Lions play the Kansas City Chiefs at Wembley Stadium, November 1, 2015.   Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports