The numbers are in and it looks like the NFL Yahoo live stream was a success, foretelling what could be the future for all sports – and a potential blow to the cable TV giants.

The NFL reported that the Buffalo-Jacksonville game, played in London and streamed for free on Yahoo Sunday morning, attracted 33.6 million views, including 15.2 million unique visitors which is more than what Monday Night Football typically attracts (13.5).

The NFL makes its first move into live streaming.

The NFL makes its first move into live streaming.

Now, there’s no reason to get too carried away with this development, as the broadcast networks are not going to give away broadcast rights to NFL games because they are ratings nirvana. (Even Sunday’s London game used a CBS crew.)

But the NFL Yahoo live stream is the start, at least for the NFL, in decoding the last piece of the puzzle cable TV systems have clung onto for hope: Sports.

As Brian Rolapp, Executive Vice President of Media for the NFL, told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King: “We’re a lot closer to the Internet being a real, legitimate distribution platform for NFL games than we were one or two years ago.”

Other sports have already switched to this model with the NBA and MLB both having streaming services for all its regular season games, and I’m sure the NFL will be working with TV networks to have something akin to those – for the right price. (Even college sports have Internet avenues.)

NFL Yahoo live stream is just the start.

More of us than ever are cutting the cable cord, even though studies show that doing that doesn’t save all that much money as your streaming subscriptions pile up. But the one area the cable cutters hadn’t figured out was what to do with the NFL. Unless you sign up with DirecTV, you were pretty much chained to Comcast, Time Warner Cable or any other cable TV provider.

But you can see how things might play out now. I watched the second half of the NFL Yahoo live stream on my iPad and I must tell you. I surprised at the high quality of the NFL Yahoo live stream video and actually enjoyed the experience. (It helped that the game was competitive until the very end.)

It called to mind what Tim Cook said at the most recent Apple event, noting that the future of TV is in apps where viewers simply choose what they are going to pay for. When HBO entered the app fray, charging customers a fee even if they don’t have a cable TV or satellite subscription, you knew it was only a matter of time until everyone else followed.

It still will be some time before cable TV and satellite providers are completely shielded from the sports mix, but viewers’ tastes are changing. When you can watch an NFL game on your iPad at 9:30 in the morning, you know the networks, the NFL and various Internet platforms are not waiting for the old providers to catch up. The NFL Yahoo live stream is just the beginning.

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