Amazon re-ups 'Thursday Night Football' live-streaming deal

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Credit: iStock; Composite by Ad Age

The NFL on Thursday said it re-upped Amazon to live-stream the "Thursday Night Football" broadcast showcase for the next two seasons. The announcement came just after the NFL signed over the broadcast rights to the 11-game package to Fox.

A year ago, Amazon succeeded Twitter as the official live-streamer of "Thursday Night Football," forking over $50 million for the rights to simulcast the suite of games that aired on CBS and NBC. Amazon paid five times what Twitter invested for the inaugural streaming deal in the spring of 2016.

Financial terms for the rights to stream the 2018 and 2019 "TNF" slates were not disclosed.

That the NFL decided to renew its digital deal with Amazon rather than kick the tires on another tech giant like Google's YouTube came as something of a surprise, as it seemed the league had been interested in testing the capabilities of the biggest streaming players in advance of the expiration of its current TV rights pacts. The league's eight-year, $27 billion broadcast arrangement with CBS, NBC and Fox is set to expire in 2022.

Amazon's second season of "TNF" action kicks off on Sept. 27, as NFC powerhouses Minnesota and the Rams game fight it out in Los Angeles. As with all Thursday night NFL broadcasts, Fox's live coverage will be simulcast on NFL Network.

In its first year of providing the exclusive digital simulcast of the Thursday night network TV package, Amazon delivered an average-minute audience of 310,000 viewers per game. Its most popular stream, a simulcast of the Oct. 5 Patriots-Buccaneers game on CBS, averaged 391,000 viewers.

Amazon's per-minute-average was up slightly compared to the 275,400 digital deliveries Twitter averaged during its tenure as the streamer of "TNF." As was the case with Twitter, Amazon's NFL offering did very little to cannibalize the linear TV broadcasts; per Nielsen estimates, the number of fans who streamed last season's "TNF" games accounted for 2.2 percent of the overall viewership.

Last week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told investors that the company's premium service, Amazon Prime, had surpassed 100 million paying subscribers. The new deal makes it possible for Amazon Prime customers in over 200 countries to stream the "TNF" games via the Prime Video app and the interactive social-media service Twitch.

The Seattle-based Amazon earlier today reported that it had more than doubled its profits in the third quarter, posting $1.6 billion in net income, or $3.27 a share, up from $724 million, or $1.48 a share in the year-ago period. Advertising revenue soared 139 percent to $2.03 billion.

Shortly after the NFL announced its new "TNF" streaming deal, Amazon said it would raise the annual sub fee on Prime by 20 percent, hiking its rate from $99 per year to $119.

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