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'Re/code Decode': NFL Media Czar Suggests Thursday Night Football Won't Move Online

"Can the Internet reach as many fans as television?" The NFL isn't ruling it out, but ...

Jared Wickerham / Getty Images

Is the Internet ready for some football?

Yes! Next question: How much football? That was on Peter Kafka’s mind when he spoke to Brian Rolapp, the NFL’s media czar, on the latest episode of "Re/code Decode."

It’s a $600 million question, since the NFL is auctioning off the rights to its Thursday night games early next year, and tech players like Apple might want to get involved. So could the NFL sell its TV rights to an all-digital platform?


"We are in the reach business," Rolapp said. "One strength of the NFL is [that] our games have been widely available. Can the Internet reach as many fans as television?"

He said the Buffalo-Jacksonville game that streamed on Yahoo earlier this year — for which Yahoo paid $20 million — brought in about three million concurrent viewers.

"Could we scale to 20-30 million?" he asked. "I’m not sure, but I’m not ruling it out."

Rolapp also talked with Kafka about what makes live sports different from other forms of television, and how traditional and digital distribution are becoming less mutually exclusive.

We’re excited to remind you that "Re/code Decode" is now twice a week. Kara Swisher and Re/code Senior Commerce Editor Jason Del Rey will be back in this space on Monday for an interview with CEO Marc Lore. To be the first to hear it, click here to subscribe.

And if you like this show, you should also check out "Re/code Replay," an archive of audio content from our events and interviews by Kara Swisher, Walt Mossberg, Peter Kafka, Ina Fried and more. To subscribe to that, click right here.

You can follow @Recode on Twitter for the latest on upcoming guests.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on iTunes — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara and Peter. You can also suggest guests for the show on Twitter and we’ll do our best to nab them for a Red Chair interview.

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