Starting in 2023, Amazon will be handing over somewhere in the neighborhood of a cool billion a year to the NFL for the exclusive rights to stream Thursday Night Football (TNF), according to CNBC. The contract, which will last a decade, marks the biggest sports deal made with a streaming service to date. The arrangement emerged after the conclusion of the NFL’s broadcast negotiations last week, which saw ViacomCBS, Fox and Comcast (NBCUniversal) lock up their own deals exceeding $2 billion per year.
Since 2017, the company has been showing Thursday night games to members on its streaming service, Prime Video, as well as offering free access on its streaming platform, Twitch. But those games were being covered by the Fox Network and only getting simulcast on Amazon. Previously, Fox had been paying $660 million a year for those rights, but Amazon clearly wanted to get in on the lucrative ad market that exclusive broadcast rights can bring.
As noted by several analysts, this is the first truly digital sports franchise rights deal. Unlike other moves by Amazon (and Twitter before it) to show NFL games, this is a commitment to show 15 games a season, exclusively for Amazon Prime subscribers in the United States. As noted in Vox, Amazon in the past has had streaming rights to games that were already broadcast on traditional TV networks like Fox and CBS.
“Lots of media observers have for years been assuming that Big Tech companies would be muscling into sports,” Vox reported. “It’s fascinating that it’s only happened now — and that it may not be happening again, in any significant way, for a long time. The other TV deals the NFL announced on Thursday will go for 11 years, meaning there’s no way for a Google or an Apple to get into this again, and there aren’t any other big-time sports rights available for some time. (The one wrinkle here is the Sunday Ticket package, which gives subscribers access to every game in the league, and is currently owned by AT&T’s DirecTV; that deal comes up in a couple of years and could definitely be available for a tech player.)”
In the past, Amazon has offered enhancements to the simulcast shows to viewers on its platforms, such as an enhanced version of its X-ray feature, which typically allows viewers to find out the background on actors in a particular scene of a movie or TV show. Applying this tech to NFL games, the company allowed its viewers to see “Next-Gen Stats,” a set of statistics that the NFL previously only made available to coaches and broadcasters. It also enabled alternative commentary, such as “Scout’s Feed,” whereby the game was called by two former NFL scouts. It will be interesting to see what the every-growing media giant will bring to the Thursday-night games going forward. One thing is certain, it will need to build out a powerhouse production outfit to film, air and provide commentary for the Thursday night games, which will be growing from 11 to 15.
As for football viewing on other days of the week, the new agreement sees CBS holding onto its American Football Conference games on Sunday afternoons, Fox renewing its rights to the National Football Conference’s Sunday afternoon games, ESPN (owned by Disney) continuing to air Monday Night Football games, and NBC going forward with its normal Sunday Night Football broadcasts and also releasing a simulcast on its own streaming service, Peacock. The NFL says that viewers who live in each of the team’s home markets can view the games on Amazon’s OTT app without needing an Amazon Prime subscription.
The deal keeps Amazon out of the Super Bowl scene for now, with contracts for the big games having been divided up among CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN and ABC.