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NFL will test digital streaming

News, 25 March 2015
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NEW YORK: In a further sign of the rapid changes taking place in the US TV market, the National Football League (NFL) has announced that it will stream a regular season game on a digital platform later this year.

When the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars face each other in London on October 25, the early morning clash (09.30 EST) will be streamed worldwide, the Wall Street Journal reported. The early start means it will be prime time in China, the NFL said.

The match will be broadcast on local TV stations in Buffalo and Jacksonville, but national video rights will be sold to a digital platform that is yet to be identified.

NFL executive vice-president Brian Rolapp said the NFL will not set any technological limitations on those bidding for the package, which means any website or streaming service will be able to bid.

"We won't shut the door on anyone because we are trying to learn about the market and find out what the models might be," he said. "But we want to reach as many people as we can."

Commenting on the initiative, a Netflix spokesman wished the NFL luck but said the match would be better suited to ad-supported video-on-demand because it will be a live game.

Separately, the NFL also announced that it will suspend its TV "blackout" rule for the 2015 season. The controversial rule prevents local TV stations from broadcasting games if tickets have not been sold out 72 hours before kick-off.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allowed the NFL to impose blackout restrictions for decades until it changed its mind last September and voted to end its support of the rule.

While the change removed the FCC's support for the blackout policy, it could not force the NFL to stop TV blackouts. However, the NFL imposed no blackouts during the 2014 football season.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal, ESPN; additional content Warc staff

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