While many will be tuning in on television to watch the NFL season kick off on Thursday, this year the league is rolling out more digital and mobile options than ever to watch the games, with a special eye for overseas viewership.
Television is still core to the league's success. But the NFL believes it can be strongly augmented by online and mobile offerings, opening up the sport up to new audiences abroad and at home, said Hans Schroeder, the league's senior vice president of media strategy, business development and sales.
Earlier in the year, Yahoo and the NFL announced a partnership to stream the Buffalo Bills-Jacksonville Jaguars game in London on Oct. 25, marking the first time an NFL game is officially streamed globally. It also so happens that the game will coincide with prime time in China.
"We think it's a great opportunity in Eastern Europe, Asia and Australia to have that game at Sunday night in primetime and to have that attractive window to watch live," Schroeder said. "(International) is a big priority across the league now."
Yahoo currently has more than one billion people who visit the site globally, according to the company. Its big pitch to the NFL included the fact that it could make the game accessible on every screen, with no cable authentication, no subscription fee and no special hardware.
"Bringing sports fans an all-digital experience allows content owners to make their content more accessible on a global basis," said Adam Cahan, Yahoo senior vice president of video, design and emerging products. "With over 1.8 billion phones globally, not to mention other connected devices, more and more consumers are 'cutting the cord.' Addressing and engaging this audience is critical."
Schroeder said the NFL has seen fan base growth in Germany, China, Japan, Australia and Brazil, and is interested in expanding its presence there. The three London games are also an opportunity to capture an expanding U.K. viewership, while Canada and Mexico are also notable goals due to the proximity to the U.S.
"As distribution becomes more global and the world becomes more global, we're figuring out who we work with and where we build," he said.