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Yahoo’s NFL live stream was less impressive than the NFL says

Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

The first ever NFL game to be streamed live across the world for free was watched by 15.2 million people, the league has reported, with around a third of the viewership for the matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars coming from outside the US. By the end of game, broadcast with partners Yahoo after the company shelled out a reported $20 million for the privilege, the NFL says it had scored an impressive 33.6 million total streams.

Last year's Super Bowl got 1.3 million concurrent streams

But although the NFL has trumpeted these figures, by breaking them down we can see that streaming isn't ready to replace TV broadcasts just yet. The NFL confirmed to CNN that 460 million total minutes of video were viewed, meaning that despite a unique viewership of 15.2 million, the broadcast only had an average viewership per minute of 2.36 million. That number is far in excess of previous streaming records for NFL games — last year's Super Bowl peaked at 1.3 million streamers per minute — but still well below traditional televised games that pull in 10 to 20 million viewers at the same time. In comparison, the last game to be played in London, between the Jets and the Dolphins, had an average of 9.9 million TV viewers per minute.

Yahoo autoplayed the stream on its homepage, its fantasy sites, and Tumblr during the game, a decision that undoubtedly inflated the number of unique viewers, but the company could argue its market share was also eaten into by TV broadcasts of the game in the Buffalo and Jacksonville areas, and in the UK, where the game was played. Still, the NFL's Hans Schroeder said the league was "thrilled with the results" of Yahoo's experiment, noting that it gave a game between two smaller market teams with losing records a global audience, coming from more than 180 countries. Expect the league to give Yahoo and its competitors more chances to stream games in the future, but as the bidding process for this one shows, expect them not to come cheap.