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Is Yahoo’s NFL Telecast a Sign of the Future?

Television has done as much for the NFL as any professional sports league, but the relationship may be a little different after Sunday.

For the first time, the NFL is offering a regular-season game exclusively on the Internet. Well, folks in Buffalo and Jacksonville still can watch the Bills-Jaguars game on traditional TV, but others — even subscribers to DirecTV’s “Sunday Ticket” — will have to use their computers or mobile devices.

The 9:30 a.m. telecast from London is free and available on Yahoo.com, which will distribute the telecast on every platform imaginable. It will be produced by CBS, which has assigned the announcing team of Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon and Jamie Erdahl.

To get a better idea of the implications of this venture, we reached out to Ken Fuchs, vice president of Yahoo’s media network, for insight.

Q: Do you consider this a historic moment for the Internet, broadcasting a live NFL game exclusively?

A: Not just for the Internet, but for the sports industry and the live broadcast industry, this is the first time there’s ever been a live, free, all-access, global broadcast of an NFL game. That’s a big thing considering the reach of sports, the reach of Yahoo and the popularity around every game that happens.

Q: What would be considered a success to you?

A: First and foremost, we want to provide a great experience for NFL fans and anybody who tunes in. We want to have the highest technical quality around the experience. We want them to feel like it’s an NFL broadcast in many respects.

Secondly, we do want to deliver a live experience that’s scaled to a big audience, and, thirdly, we have a lot of great advertising partnerships that we want to provide a really strong experience around as well.

Q: You have a lot of subscribers already, but did you have to do any additional reinforcement to make sure you could handle the potential volume of traffic?

A: No. Considering that every month we’re delivering content and video to a billion people around the world and 600 million or more on mobile devices, we’re always looking at how to ensure our structure is strong, that we’re delivering against whatever the experience might be, in this case, a live broadcast. It’s something that we spent extra time ensuring that we’re prepared. We understand the deliverables that we need to have at our end to ensure that a high, high number of people can come in and watch it.

Q: Do you look at this as a beginning of what you hope will be a partnership with the NFL?

A: We’ve had a longstanding partnership with the NFL in a number of different areas, video space and other ways. We value that partnership quite a bit. Our mutual success around that partnership is what led us to this moment. It wasn’t something that just came out of the blue. Going forward, based on the success we have around the game, both parties will look at it as, “What can we do next?”

Q: Looking at it from the NFL’s standpoint, is the way we’re consuming NFL games changing pretty quickly? In 5-10 years, will television not be the No. 1 distributor of NFL games?

A: There’s a lot of trends happening that are starting to shift more and more rapidly. You have, for the first time ever, a decline in cable subscribers. You have a millennial generation that is spending more time consuming video on the Internet than they are on actual traditional television. You are starting to see a lot of success with over-the-top (OTT) delivery of a wide variety of content types, from music, like we do with “Live Nation,” to over-the-air programming to live sports.

Live sports has always been a little bit of a bellwether because of the power that it brings and the fact that it’s feneral and the fact that it’s very social. The NFL is a bellwether for sports in this country. This is something where we think that there’s a transition that’s rapidly starting to happen. Everybody sees that happening, and we’re excited to be at the forefront of pushing it into that direction even more aggressively.

To read the rest of the interview visit the Times Union where it was originally published

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