Retail chains perennially use the Super Bowl hype machine to sell big-screen TVs.
Yahoo! Sports has been streaming the NFL playoffs this year for free on mobile phones, and will carry Super Bowl LII on Sunday. The promotion is the latest effort in the short history of NFL streaming that includes companies such as Amazon (AMZN) and Twitter (TWTR) . As NFL ratings decline, making deals with Amazon, Alphabet's (GOOGL) YouTube and Facebook (FB) would provide the NFL with new sources of revenue, and could force traditional broadcasters to pay more.
Yahoo Sports is selling ads during the games. The playoff games have attracted advertisers such as TD Ameritrade (AMTD) and Toyo Tires (TOTTF) . The digital sports hub has also sold spots to Yahoo! foe Facebook and Verizon competitors Sprint (S) . Facebook's spots promote its "Tom vs Time" video series about New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
AOL boss Tim Armstrong wants Oath to become to brand advertising what Amazon's Google is to search and Facebook is to social media advertising. Armstrong aims to build the Oath's base of 1.3 billion users to 2 billion by 2020.
Since announcing the promotion on Jan. 9, the company has had more than 600,000 new app installs on the Yahoo! Sports app, which doesn't going to get Armstrong much closer to 2 billion users. By allowing rivals Facebook and Sprint to promote their businesses on Yahoo! Sports, Oath is demonstrating its commitment to the advertising model.
Verizon doesn't have exclusive streaming rights to the Super Bowl. NBC Sports and the NFL will also stream the game on their apps.
New Yorkers can watch the game, or any television show that is broadcast over the air, on the web site of non-profit startup Locast.org. The free service is reminiscent of Aereo, a company backed by Barry Diller that let viewers watch local TV online for a fee. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Aereo illegal in 2014. However, Locast can put the TV signals online because the non-profit does not charge a fee. The group hopes to expand to markets outside of New York, and is developing apps for Android and Roku (ROKU) .
The NFL has had a few pacts with Silicon Valley. Amazon made it NFL livestream debut this year, after reportedly bidding $50 million to carry Thursday Night Football games online. Amazon Prime attracted 18.4 million viewers in 11 games this year. The e-commerce power succeeded Twitter, which streamed Thursday Night Football in 2016. Pre-Verizon Yahoo! was the first to globally stream a live NFL game for free, when 33.6 million viewers watched the Buffalo Bills play the Jacksonville Jaguars in Wembley Stadium in 2015.
Interest from digital media groups come amid a serious broadcast slump for the league. "With regular season ratings down 13% and playoff runs down between 12% and 20%, the NFL is experience a structural decline in viewership, and it is going to be an issue!" MoffettNathanson LLC analyst Michael Nathanson wrote in a late-January report.
Media watchers were eager to see if Amazon would go all in and buy exclusive rights to Thursday Night Football next year. However, Fox (FOXA) is reportedly paying $660 million per season on a five-year deal to carry Thursday night games.
Still, Amazon, Google and Facebook could buy rights for Monday night and Sunday night packages, analyst Nathanson. Disney's (DIS) ESPN pays $1.9 billion per year for Monday Night Football, While Sunday Night Football is a relative bargain for Comcast's (CMCSA) NBC at $960 million per year.
Despite Silicon Valley's skill at luring consumers to e-commerce sites and social media networks, they have not yet made much of a dent in the NFL. Amazon made up just 2.5% of Thursday Night Football viewership, Nathanson observed. "[T]he NFL will need to encourage digital bidders to enter the auctions to drive up prices, but may be uncomfortable with the low ratings produced by Twitter and Amazon during these early experiments," he wrote.
While Amazon, Facebook, YouTube and Yahoo! may provide the NFL with new revenue streams, don't expect a hail Mary that saves the pro-football's broadcast game anytime soon.
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