Verizon's (VZ - Get Report) deal to live stream a National Football League game from London for a reported $21 million is the latest sports score for the telecom, which already streams some NFL and NBA content on its mobile service.
Sports streaming rights has become a competitive marketplace, with Verizon, Amazon (AMZN - Get Report) , Twitter (TWTR - Get Report) and others competing for games. After Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai gave his support for zero rating programs that allow the telecoms to provide videos or other content that does not count against users' data limits, Verizon, AT&T (T - Get Report) , Sprint (S - Get Report) and T-Mobile USA (TMUS - Get Report) have added incentive to up their game.
Verizon announced it will stream the September game between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium across its AOL, Fios, go90 and Complex platforms. No mention was made of Yahoo! (YHOO) , which the telecom is acquiring for $4.48 billion. Yahoo! streamed an NFL game from Wembley Stadium last year, with 33.6 million views on Yahoo and its Tumblr blogging site. The game will be shown on TV on local stations in Baltimore and Jacksonville, as well as on Sky Sports in the U.K.
The NFL and Verizon did not immediately respond to queries about the deal.
If the reported price is correct, Verizon will be paying more per game than Amazon. Jeff Bezos' digital commerce and media giant announced in April that it had a deal to stream 10 Thursday night games, reportedly paying $50 million, or $5 million a game. While Amazon does not have a wireless network, it can use games to promote its Amazon Prime service. The games that Amazon streams will be broadcast on either Comcast's (CMCSA - Get Report) NBC and CBS (CBS - Get Report) .
Twitter streamed Thursday night games last year.
As Internet groups chase sports content, one question is whether social media group Facebook (FB - Get Report) will enter the fray. Jim Cramer and TheStreet.com's AAP team are reviewing their target for Facebook after the company exceeded first-quarter expectations. Find out what they are telling their investment club members. Get a free trial subscription to Action Alerts Plus.
Zero-rating had been a political football under the Obama administration. Former FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler argued that some of AT&T's and Verizon's zero-rated video deals violated net neutrality rules, because they discriminated against competitors whose videos would count against data caps.
Trump-appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai takes a different view, and scuttled an investigation by the Commission into zero-rating in February. "These free-data plans have proven to be popular among consumers, particularly low-income Americans, and have enhanced competition in the wireless marketplace. Going forward, the Federal Communications Commission will not focus on denying Americans free data," Pai said in a statement. "Instead, we will concentrate on expanding broadband deployment and encouraging innovative service offerings."
Under Trump, the politics of zero-rated sports streaming works. Now Verizon has to show investors that the economics do as well.
Editor's pick: Originally published on May 4 at 11:33 am ET.
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