jurvetsonYahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has a chance to pull off a deal with the NFL – one that would instantly boost her chances of salvaging Yahoo as a mobile-first company.
But right now, it seems more likely that she’s is going to blow off the deal than go for it.
That deal is up for renewal soon.
According to a source close to the NFL, Yahoo has quietly expressed interest in hearing how much it would cost to buy those rights for itself.
This source tells us the price Yahoo would have to pay is about $200 million per year.
That’s an amount Yahoo could easily afford.
It has $4 billion in cash available, and access to much more thanks to smart investments in Yahoo Japan and Alibaba.
The deal would make a lot of sense for Yahoo, too.
Mayer is trying to reinvent Yahoo as a mobile-first company.
Her challenge is that while Yahoo can claim to reach a lot of people on mobile, it actually gets very little usage.
Worse yet, even that reach is a bit of a mirage.
It is due mainly to Yahoo branding on the weather application Apple pre-installs with every iPhone. But Apple built the app and The Weather Company supplies the data. Yahoo is just a weird man in the middle. Several sources at The Weather Company tell us its only a matter of time before the branding on that app changes. When that happens, Yahoo’s mobile reach will shrink dramatically.
The point is: Yahoo needs to develop some mobile experiences that draw-in consumers.
Building live, prime time NFL games and higlights into Yahoo’s fantasy football mobile app is kind of a no-brainer way to do that. Hundreds of millions of people watch the NFL. NBC’s Sunday night games draw ~11 million people each week.
Meanwhile, consumers are increasingly willing to watch “TV” on whatever screen it is available – 5 inch, 7 inch, 22 inch, or 55 inch.
At the Goldman Sachs tech conference in San Francisco several weeks back, Mayer told the audience that one pleasant surprise she got after arriving at the company in July was the stunning popularity of Yahoo Sports, and Yahoo’s fantasy football product in particular.
For years, Yahoo Sports was a more popular sports destination online than even ESPN.com.
You’d think Mayer want to strengthen that product with incredibly popular content from the NFL.
But a source familiar with Marissa Mayer’s thinking tells us: “I don’t expect her to be spending $200 million on rights any time soon.”
Our source close to the NFL agrees that its more likely Verizon – or even Sprint, once its fully owned by Softbank – will find the cash to land the rights.
For Yahoo shareholders, employees, and even Yahoo’s fantasy football users, that’s a bummer.
Here’s hoping she changes her mind.