The early numbers are in, and according to Yahoo and the NFL there were 15.2 million unique viewers of Sunday’s first-ever online-only streaming of an NFL game, a 34-31 victory by the Jacksonville Jaguars over the Buffalo Bills from Wembley Stadium in London.
While there were some reports of problems with the stream — mainly fuzzy and pixelated pictures — according to the NFL and Yahoo the streaming saw “an average rebuffering ratio of less than 1%” during the 480 million total video minutes served up. The streaming broadcast also saw 33.6 million discrete streams, which meant that many of the unique viewers either clicked on and off, or restarted their streams (maybe after experiencing some of that “rebuffering”). While I don’t agree with Business Insider’s view that the event was a “disaster” the choppiness and possible drops might have been annoying to some who have never viewed live events online before. Maybe we’re immune because we watch so much sports online, but c’mon, you have to allow for the fact that this is live video transversing a best-effort network, which on one level is still pretty amazing. Now if they could just find something other than a weirdo Matthew McConaughey ad we’d be fine.
Interestingly, 33 percent of the streams were from international sources, meaning that such exercises could possibly help the NFL expand its live-action reach outside of its traditional U.S. broadcast boundaries. Since the game wasn’t on live TV (except for local markets) it’s not a surprise that it was most likely the highest-ever total audience for a streaming sports event; SB Nation has a good roundup of the numbers and media observers’ takes on the event.
Mobile Sports Report watched the stream for a bit, both online via a browser and on our phone, and we were part of that 1 percent that experienced fuzzy/pixelated views, mainly on the laptop. What was interesting was that Verizon’s NFL Mobile app also carried the game, in perfect sync with the browser view; the Yahoo page viewed via the phone, however, was about 11 seconds ahead of the regular web page view, which we found puzzling.
Also somewhat surprised there are no "extras" in the Yahoo stream, like multiple camera angles, all-22, etc. This is like any other game
— paulkaps (@paulkaps) October 25, 2015
Our other take on the event was mainly about how vanilla it was — the stream had none of the extras or features we’ve come to expect from online offerings, like a replay timeline, multiple camera angles, or choices on commentators, like the college football megacasts. We’re not sure if that was due to Yahoo’s desire to keep it simple to make the delivery easier, or if the NFL didn’t want frills, but by and large it felt like just another NFL game. Since we regularly watch NFL games digitally, either on the phone via NFL Mobile or online via ESPN or Fox or NBC it didn’t seem very revolutionary to us. Maybe next time the NFL can step up its game and use more of the medium. With the numbers and audience, it seems like a no-brainer to try.