Amazon’s Thursday Night Football Ushers In A New Era Of NFL Streaming
To the joy and frustration of football fans across the United States, the era of National Football League games appearing exclusively on a streaming service has arrived.
Amazon Prime Video is the home of “Thursday Night Football” this coming season, marking the first time in league history that a streaming service will be the solo carrier for a set of domestic games. The era begins August 25 with a preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans. The first regular season game for Amazon is September 15, when the Los Angeles Chargers take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2 of the NFL season. Local broadcast stations of teams playing in a given week will also broadcast the games live.
Amazon signed a deal with Nielsen this week to measure telecasts, a sign of confidence that it expects strong ratings. Eighty million US subscribers have watched Amazon Prime Video at least once in the past year, the company announced in May. For context, Netflix ended the second quarter with 73.3 million paid monthly subscribers in the United States and Canada. Disney+ ended its last quarter with 44.5 million subscribers in the United States and Canada.
People who want to watch the games will need to sign up for an Amazon Prime account, which costs $14.99 per month or $139 per year, or a Prime Video subscription, which costs $8.99 per month.
New game features
To push viewers to its NFL broadcast, which costs Amazon $1 billion a year, live games will automatically start playing when people log into Amazon.com. Games will also be highlighted on Prime Video’s home screen to alert subscribers that they’re playing in real time.
Viewers will have the choice to watch, record or start from the start of the show. If they don’t want to continue taping individual games, they will also have the option of taping the entire Thursday night game slate for the season.
Amazon is also rolling out other new tech features. On most platforms (it’s still working on a deal with Roku) it will feature “X-Ray Stats”, which will give viewers the option to see real-time stats on-screen. In addition to standard stats such as yards and touchdowns, they will include so-called next-gen numbers, such as average throwing time for quarterbacks and yards after contact for running backs and receivers. Players will wear upgraded uniforms with Amazon Web Services chips, enabling instant upgrades.
Amazon will also be offering a client highlights package via X-Ray that will be updated throughout the game for viewers who missed the early action and want to catch up. For Fire TV users, viewers will be able to speak commands like “show me stats” or “play last touch” into the remote. These features will be ready for the regular season opener of Thursday Night Football.
Continuing a trend set by Disney’s ESPN and Paramount Global, Amazon will also offer alternative shows for people who want a less serious TV show, starting with popular YouTube comedy group Dude Perfect. Amazon plans to add more alternate streams over time.
Growing pains are expected. For example, Amazon is gearing up for feedback from frustrated viewers whose internet speeds may not be able to handle a live stream, or viewers who are not yet familiar with streaming browsing.
“Free from the bandwidth and channel limitations that limit optionality on linear platforms, our promise is to continually listen to our customers, iterate and intentionally develop new and better ways for more fans can enjoy the games,” said Amazon spokesman Tim Buckman.
As for its main broadcast, Amazon is confident viewers will be thrilled. While Apple TV+ received a slew of initial pushbacks for trying to be different with its Major League Baseball games, Buckman said Amazon’s goal was to be great at delivering the experience. viewing the base game before being inventive.
For its play-by-play, Amazon taps broadcasting legend Al Michaels, who left NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” as well as longtime college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit.
Disclosure: Both NBC and CNBC are units of NBCUniversal.