Wed, Mar 25, 2015 - Page 18 News List

NFL plans to broadcast London game online for free

NY Times News Service, PHOENIX, Arizona

The NFL is to begin experimenting with streaming games worldwide next season, as it searches for more broadcast revenue and ways to reach the growing number of consumers who do not pay for cable and satellite television.

The league’s 32 owners, who are holding their annual meeting in Phoenix, were told that the Buffalo Bills-Jacksonville Jaguars game on Oct. 25 in London would be available free to viewers around the world.

The game is still to be shown on television in the Buffalo and Jacksonville markets. However, by live-streaming the game on its Web site, the league would be able to bypass cable and satellite companies that traditionally take a cut of the revenue from broadcasting games on behalf of the league.

The NFL, joining other content producers who are seeking to reach consumers directly, is looking for ways to reach those who do not have cable subscriptions.

“We’re testing alternative ways to distribute games,” NFL executive vice president for media Brian Rolapp said.

He said that the league’s current model of showing games on network television remained solid, but that there were millions of homes without pay television packages, a number that could grow rapidly.

“If the world ever changes, we want to be prepared,” he said.

Separately, the league said that it would not black out games in local markets when teams failed to sell out their stadiums next season. The so-called blackout policy began in 1973 as a way to encourage fans to buy tickets to games rather than watch them for free on television. Under the policy, a home game could be shown in a team’s local market if the game was sold out 72 hours in advance of kickoff.

As team ticket sales have improved, the number of games blacked out fell to zero last season and to two in 2013. The owners voted on Monday to suspend the policy for this year’s season and evaluate the results.

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