Amazon has reached a deal with the NFL to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games during the upcoming season for a reported $50 million, outbidding Google, Twitter and Facebook, according to reports by the Wall Street Journal and Recode.
The company confirmed in an email to GeekWire that it has won the streaming rights to Thursday Night Football games, but official details are still forthcoming. Update: Amazon and the NFL issued a press release on Wednesday confirming the earlier reports.
According to the reports, the Seattle-based e-commerce giant will stream the games exclusively to Amazon Prime members, who pay a $99/year fee to belong to Amazon’s membership program. It’s part of a broader effort by Amazon to bolster its Prime Video lineup and its benefits for Amazon Prime members, which include free 2-day shipping, cloud storage, and more.
Like last year, the Thursday night games are also expected to be available over the air, alternating between CBS and NBC, and also on cable through the NFL Network. Those stations will also be able to stream games on their respective platforms.
Twitter streamed 10 Thursday night games during the 2016 NFL season, reportedly paying $10 million for those streaming rights — much lower than what Amazon paid for the upcoming season. In an interview with GeekWire this past January, Twitter’s global head of sports partnerships Laura Froelich said that the live streaming deal with the NFL went “incredibly well,” noting increases in viewership each week and positive comments from fans.
Throughout the season, Twitter also reported the average minute audience (AMA), which hovered around 250,000 per game, a small percentage of fans who watched on NBC, CBS or the NFL Network.
But that all wasn’t enough for the NFL to renew its contract with Twitter, which has been positioning itself as a live streaming platform. The company has partnerships with more than 300 rights holders and has signed similar live streaming deals with leagues like the NBA and MLB, which will stream one game per week on Twitter in 2017.
Twitter becoming an online sports TV station… pic.twitter.com/F4JH185jgL
— Taylor Soper (@Taylor_Soper) March 27, 2017
Even though the NFL partnership didn’t make much of a difference for Twitter’s stagnant user growth or bottom line — some advertisers were also reportedly underwhelmed by the audience numbers from Twitter’s stream — losing the NFL contract is certainly a blow to the company’s live-streaming ambitions, as it is the most high-profile deal it has inked thus far.
Amazon and sports
For Amazon, this marks the company’s first big move into the live sports world.
The Wall Street Journal reported in November that Amazon was in talks with multiple leagues about live game rights. It noted how Amazon could offer a “premium, exclusive sports package” to those who pay for a Prime membership. The reported NFL deal today seems to be a step toward those goals.
The NFL deal will also add to Amazon’s growing video content library. The company has already found success with its original show All or Nothing, which is similar to HBO’s Hard Knocks and takes viewers behind the scenes with an NFL team. Amazon just greenlit a second season for the show, which is available to Prime members.
Live sports is also a way for Amazon to set itself apart from competitors like Netflix and Hulu. And it could be the latest in a line of numerous enticements to get people to subscribe to Prime. There are now an estimated 63 million Prime members, making up more than 50 percent of the company’s U.S. customer base.
Amazon last year hired digital media veteran James DeLorenzo as its new head of sports for “Amazon Video Channels.” DeLorenzo is a digital media veteran, having worked in executive roles at CBS and Time-owned Sports Illustrated, where he helped launch the 120 Sports digital venture.
It will be interesting to see how Amazon presents the Thursday Night Football stream to viewers. For example, which apps will carry the stream? How will viewers engage with the stream? Will Amazon add social media commentary? Update: The stream will be available via the Amazon Prime Video app and to Prime Video members internationally in more than 200 countries.
Twitter built the experience with live video playing one part of the screen, and a stream of curated tweets cascading down the other. Twitter aired the same play-by-play commentary shown to those watching the CBS feed on TV. It also showed advertisements throughout the game, just like a normal TV broadcast.
Users around the world (except Canada) could stream the games for free — on browsers; on Twitter’s mobile app within the Moments tab; on the company’s new apps for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Xbox One — even if they didn’t have a Twitter account or any sort of cable package.