Amazon hosts its first-ever livestreamed NFL game on Thursday night, as the league’s “Thursday Night Football” franchise makes its Prime Video debut. Thursday night’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers was heavily promoted by the company, with a large ad banner taking up the bulk of the Amazon.com homepage throughout the day.
There was a time when Amazon’s video streams were considered a bonus add-on to the REAL membership of significance: the life-changing Amazon Prime shipping deal, allowing users to refill their Brita filters, toothpaste and dog food supply from the comfort of their couch. But though Prime Shipping remains as convenient as ever, the company has shifted to seeing the TV and film content itself as a valuable commodity in its own right.
Amazon’s new “Lord of the Rings” adaptation “The Rings of Power” famously ranks among the most expensive TV shows of all time and just this week, the company announced another costly live-action series based on the “Blade Runner” franchise. With 80 million U.S. households now subscribed to the service, Amazon ranks as one of the major players in the streaming industry, even though streaming films and TV shows are just one part of the overall Prime experience.
Thursday night’s game is the first of 15 that will stream on Amazon each season over the next 11 years. The games will still air on TV for fans in local markets, but around the rest of the country, Prime Video will be the exclusive streaming destination for these match-ups. (Amazon’s NFL broadcasts had initially been scheduled to begin during the 2023 season but were bumped up to this year back in May.)
The NFL renegotiated its various broadcast and streaming rights deals last year, as part of a $100 billion overall media package. In addition to Amazon, CBS hung on to the broadcast rights for all American Football Conference games, which includes the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens teams. (These games will also stream on Paramount Plus.) ESPN hung on to the “Monday Night Football” franchise, which it will simulcast on EPSN Plus. Disney also won the rights to televise two more Super Bowls on ABC. Fox grabbed the National Football Conference broadcasts, including the bulk of Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants coverage; the network has held these rights since 1994. Finally, NBC kept “Sunday Night Football” – currently the most-watched broadcast on primetime network TV in the U.S. – which will air on TV and stream on Peacock.
Most streamers – particularly those like Paramount Plus or Peacock, with direct ties to pre-existing TV networks – pull in broadcast feeds for their streams. Peacock, for example, features the NBC Sports game feeds you’d see if you tuned in to your local NBC affiliate on television. Amazon doesn’t have this option, and built up its NFL broadcasting format and team organically from the ground up.
This includes a new version of the Prime Video “X-Ray” feature, providing viewers with (optional) additional context and information on screen during the game, along with a feature called “Next Gen Stats,” which uses machine learning to predict key metrics like pass completion and rushing yards. Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit will call the games alongside sideline reporter Charissa Thompson and former NFL players Richard Sherman, Tony Gonzalez and Ryan Fitzpatrick providing commentary and analysis.
Amazon will also offer a few alternate feeds of the broadcast, including one starring the cast of YouTube’s “Dude Perfect” channel, providing commentary of their own. (They’re the guys who do all those trick shot montages? Remember them?) Toggling between the feeds will apparently be quick and painless, so viewers don’t miss any of the action on the field.
In an indication of how closely Amazon plans to watch the success of their new venture into sports broadcasting, the company took the unconventional step of teaming with Nielsen to measure the actual audience size of its NFL streams. Under a 3-year deal, Nielsen will monitor “Thursday Night Football” viewership and attempt to draw direct audience comparisons to nationally televised NFL games. This marks the first time a streaming service has tasked the company with measuring the audience on a live program. Nielsen also plans to look at engagement and activity around the games on Amazon’s Twitch platform, and to measure “out of home viewership,” including people watching the streams at bars, hotels and restaurants. Still counts! - Lon Harris
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