Amazon ups its NFL play with new streaming pact and exclusive game
Amazon has a new three-year deal to stream the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” telecasts, which includes the rights to an exclusive game later in the 2020 season.
The pact announced Wednesday gives Amazon the worldwide rights to carry 11 Thursday night contests, which are also available to TV viewers on Fox and the NFL Network through the 2022 season. The games are also carried by NFL streaming partners Verizon Wireless and Yahoo in the U.S.
Terms of the new deal were not disclosed. The Seattle-based tech giant reportedly paid the NFL $65 million a season in its last two-year pact and $50 million in the one-year deal signed in 2017.
Last season, “Thursday Night Football” averaged 15.4 million viewers, up 4% over the previous year according to the NFL. Viewing on digital platforms, which include Amazon Prime, accounted for 1 million of those viewers, up 43% from 2018.
Amazon offers the Thursday games to its Prime Video customers with the option of its own announcing team — Hannah Storm and Andrea Kramer — or the audio of the Fox Sports TV telecast. The games are also shown on Amazon’s Twitch streaming service for gamers, which adds interactive elements to the telecast.
Viewers hungry for live sports tuned in across four networks Thursday, with an average of 15.6 million viewers watching the selection of college players.
The exclusive 2020 game included in the new deal will be a Saturday contest in the second half of the season, which will air on TV only in the two local broadcast markets of the teams that play. It will be the first streaming-only NFL contest since Yahoo had exclusive rights to a 2017 game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens in London.
Yahoo reportedly paid $20 million for the rights to the game. Amazon did not have any exclusive games in its previous NFL pacts.
Amazon’s exclusive game could be a test run for a larger deal, as the NFL is said to be considering a package of games for a streaming service in its next television rights contract.
While the NFL is likely to keep the bulk of its games on broadcast television, the league is mindful of the growing number of younger consumers who do not have pay TV subscriptions and watch most of their video content through online platforms.
Amazon is considered a strong contender for such a streaming package if the NFL makes one available. The company has been getting more involved in the sports TV business as last year it became a partner in the YES Network, which carries New York Yankees baseball for cable and satellite subscribers in the team’s market.
Before the start of the 2020 season was delayed by the coronavirus crisis, Amazon planned to stream 21 Yankees games to Prime members in New York state, Connecticut, northeast Pennsylvania, and north and central New Jersey.
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