The The NFL is making its regular season debut on Amazon Prime Thursday night with the mat from the match: the world’s top bosses vs. the Rising Chargers. It’s a daring adventure in broadcasting for a league that is synonymous with broadcast television dominance.
The NFL is making billions from this new deal. Amazon is establishing itself as a serious player in the ever-changing content wars. The fans… Well, the fans better make sure they have a valid credit card on file and maybe have a teen around to help them find their Dang in the first place.
Scheduled to kick off Thursday night at 8:15 p.m. ET, and around 8:17 p.m., thousands — perhaps hundreds of thousands — of NFL fans will realize that Amazon Prime is not a channel on their cable box. What happens next will determine how successful this streaming gaming initiative will be in the short term.
NFL Cultural Power Meets Amazon Dollars
Over 18 months ago, the NFL announced that Amazon would be the exclusive carrier for most Thursday night games in a massive $13 billion deal that stretches through 2033. At a cost of about $1 billion annually, that means Amazon is paying about $67 million per game of rights fees. It would take a lot of selling dog food and general household goods to cover this nut…which is why Amazon is hedging its massive bet by matching up with the safest recreational property in America.
“Only the NFL is in a position to override this kind of thing. It really does outperform all the other leagues in terms of fans and interests,” says Mike Lewis, director of Emory University’s Center for Marketing Analytics. “Football is still king in all categories. age. It is the only sport that is still attractive to the mass market.”
Additionally, the NFL thrives on scarcity. While each team plays 162 baseball games in one season, and 82 NBA and NHL games, the 17 NFL games are precious gems, each one rare and valuable — yes, even Jaguars-Colts — to gamblers and fantasy players, if not necessarily all fans. .
This gives the NFL leverage at scale, even in this world of shattered periods of interest and fragmented entertainment options. The NFL could test the waters with the option to stream only some of its games, because, quite frankly, where are the fans going? They have proven their loyalty before.
“The NFL had yet to falter when it went to ‘wannabe,’ using the old broadcaster term for a network looking to make the leap to the next level,” says Jay Rosenstein, former vice president of programming at CBS Sports. Monday Night Football, ESPN in 1987, Fox in 1994 when that network was on life support.”
The NFL brings instant credibility to any entity that broadcasts it…even one who started his life selling used books.
Amazon Studios is betting big on the NFL, the Elves
Amazon Claims More than 200 million Prime customers worldwide, which is a massive number that may or may not reflect exactly how many people will watch the NFL Thursday night. It will be Nielsen Measure your NFL numbers on Amazonjust as with other networks, which will bring more clarity than other streaming services viewer reports.
“It’s a bold and aggressive move for Amazon,” Rosenstein says. “The NFL is able to look at their history and say, ‘Okay, give us a lot of money,’ and then help them grow by giving them a decent schedule, and see what happens.”
Between this and its massive investment in its new series “The Lord of the Rings” – by far the most expensive TV show ever produced – Amazon is pushing everything on multiple fronts. The streaming service opened the vault to hire Michaels, Kirk Herbstreet, Tony Gonzalez, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and others, and commissioned a song with a strong classic feel:
It is said that Amazon Guaranteed 12.5 million viewer ratings for every gamelower than last season’s games on Fox but still a strong statement of faith in consumers’ desire to stream games.
Amazon has played Prime-only broadcasts with the NFL Network on Thursday nights since the 2017 season. In 2020, Amazon hosted a Prime-only game of Week 16 — a Saturday afternoon game between two largely awful teams — that drew 4.8 million viewers, in line with The lowest NFL network broadcast only.
Amazon’s only pre-season game — a 49ers-Texans game that ran at the same time as the NFL Network’s Packers-Chiefs pre-season game — drew 1.04 million viewers, about half of whom were in San Francisco and Houston. (Major markets will show the game on TV broadcasts, and those numbers will contribute to Amazon’s game total.) While the game hasn’t been heavily promoted, it has attracted an audience with an average age of the game five years less than the previous telecast of this year’s NFL season.
In the regular season, the NFL blesses Amazon with more mouth-watering games—the Browns-Stillers and Dolphins-Bengals in September, for example. For each of its 15 games this year, Amazon will run four separate broadcasts: the standard game with Michaels and Herbstreit; Spanish version. “Prime Vision with Next Gen Stats”, which will serve as a room for coaches to have a look at the game; and “TNF with Dude Perfect”, a teen-like version where famous cheat players attempt reckless actions while commenting on the game. (Amazon also struck a deal with DirecTV for Broadcast games to 300,000 sports barsmany are equipped to handle satellites but not broadcasts.)
It’s not your dad’s NFL. It’s not even your NFL. It’s the NFL for your kids, and that’s the point.
Get past today’s fans to prepare for tomorrow
For any fan with a smart TV and a bit of tech knowledge (and of course an Amazon Prime subscription), the jump to Amazon is no more difficult than getting any other streaming service like Netflix or Hulu. The challenge is to get viewers more prepared for their ways – a euphemism for saying “old people” – to understand 1) why they have to pay more for something they usually get “for free”, and 2) how to get Amazon Prime at all.
“There will always be this group of consumers who worry when they don’t get their sport from apparently ‘free’ content,” Lewis says. “You can see we’re going down the path of an adult yelling at a child, ‘Shall we bring Hulu?'” Shall we get Prime? Shall we get a Paramount? What’s the password? Can you put it on my TV? “”
To be honest, though, today’s older consumers — or, to be more polite, already avid fans who will follow the league across channels — are not the NFL’s target market with Amazon’s game. Almost no one under the age of 60 distinguishes between “streaming” and cable TV, and almost no one under the age of 25 thinks twice about switching between cable, Netflix, Hulu, Prime, or any of the other streaming services. For that young demographic, the logistics of reaching out to Amazon isn’t an obstacle at all.
“The NFL is betting, and Amazon is betting, that younger Prime subscribers who have cut the rope will accept the broadcast,” Rosenstein says. “But everyone in this business feels in some way to try to make this business a success.”
A potential downside to moving to Flow is that the NFL will break its monolithic stature.
“Maybe if they do a little more of this [streaming] Lewis says, “On the edges, that’s okay, but if it continues to fragment, if there are no channels or platforms in the mass market, the NFL might find itself in the same boat as other sports. Instead of having half the country, they would get 20 percent or 10 percent.”
There will be a steep learning curve for many NFL fans, but Amazon and the league are counting on a love of football that outweighs the fear of technology and the anger of paying another $14.99 a month for another streaming service.
If nothing else, NFL fans can use one of Amazon’s free 30-day trials. This will take you to Washington-Chicago in mid-October, and if you’re willing to watch, you’re ready to watch anything.