On March 18, 2021, the National Football League came to a new agreement for its television rights. Perhaps most notable is that Amazon has gained exclusive rights to the broadcasts of the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package starting in 2023. The games will be carried on Amazon Prime Video,
This is a guide to the new deal with an emphasis on the streaming component that will be under the aegis of Amazon which will pay the league a whopping $1 billion a season. In all, the league will collect a reported $113 billion in rights fees from its five media partners. Some critical points on how this will look:
- The networks that carry NFL games, NBC, CBS, FOX, and ESPN/ABC, have all realized the continuing trend of consumers and have ventured into the streaming universe.
- Right now, games are available over-the-air on local stations with an HDTV antenna that viewers can easily purchase.
- The networks that have NFL rights will also stream telecasts on their affiliated streaming platforms (Peacock for NBC, Paramount+ for CBS, tubi for FOX, and ESPN+ for ESPN/ABC games).
- Viewers can access these streaming services on Roku or Amazon Fire Stick devices. Some streaming services, including Amazon Prime, are available on Sony PlayStations 3, 4, and 5.
- The NFL will not renew its NFL Sunday Ticket with DirecTV while its new partner or partners has not been confirmed yet.
- There have been discussions between the NFL and ESPN+ for Sunday Ticket to be available via ESPN+ possibly. See in-depth related story:
- Amazon Prime Video, with roughly 150 million subscribers, has been simulcasting the FOX feed for Thursday Night Football since the 2017 season. For a streaming service to become relevant and viable in a muddled landscape, it requires big and eye-popping events. And what can be bigger than the NFL? Year in and year out, NFL games dominate the top twenty of the most watched network programs.
- The NFL nailed down the Amazon deal for two reasons. One, to foster and maintain a digital strategy and from a sports perspective dominate the streaming space as it exists today. Two, there was little appetite by the traditional networks to run Thursday games either on their own or alongside the NFL Network. Amazon’s production of Thursday Night Football will be the first true test of whether the NFL will dive deeper into the streaming world when it negotiates its next set of broadcast rights.
- CBS, NBC, and FOX all had the Thursday package at some point during the 2010s. FOX will have Thursday Night Football for another two seasons after which, in 2023, NFL fans will need an Amazon Prime subscription to watch Thursday Night Football. That’s when the new rights deals go into effect.
- As for Amazon Prime a regular subscription is $119 a year or $12.99 a month. Students have less expensive options, $59 a year or $6.49 a month. And let’s not forget seniors. There’s a $5.99 a month option for seniors.
- For Amazon Prime Video it’s an opportunity to showcase its original programming and services. It could market shows for viewers to watch, regardless whether they’re included with a Prime Video membership or if they’re premium programs that require additional costs.
- Doing business with Amazon puts the NFL right in the thick of becoming a digital retailer with all-in-one access to potentially 150 million customers.
- The NFL will feature its Fanatics, New Era, Outerstuff, and NFL Pro Line products on it Amazon telecasts. This digital retail opportunity minimizes the channel of distribution. No middle-men or retail expenses will be needed. Fans can virtually taste the products they see during game streamcasts and place orders turnkey on Amazon as they’re presented. It’s easy. Remember that Amazon Prime customers already have customer credit cards on file. This is a major windfall for the NFL as part of the rights program.
- As a point of reference, last season Amazon Prime Video promoted its own featured programming during the streamcast of the San Francisco 49ers-Arizona Cardinals game on December 26th. Specifically, it showcased, Sylvie’s Love, which starred former NFL All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. There was an interview with Asomugha during the streamcast, which in essence is a natural, intrusive and interlacing way to push products with the football fabric.
- The 49ers-Cardinals Amazon stream averaged 4.8 million viewers, which is about a third the audience of the standard NFL telecast. Per Statista, the average NFL regular season game in 2020 brought in 14.9 million viewers.
- When the new deal begins in 2023, Amazon will produce its games independently. It will no longer piggyback off a network’s feed as it does now with Fox which is still in the Thursday act. By doing so, it plans a separate presentation with the “X-ray” feature that it already uses with movies and television shows. “X-ray” will feature real-time stats for both teams.
- Now for the question of who will announce the games. The December 26th game between San Francisco and Arizona had CBS’s Andrew Catalon and James Lofton as play-by-player and analyst respectively. Amazon also had NFL Network’s Rhett Lewis and Maurice Jones-Drew in the studio for pregame and halftime.
- Presently, Hannah Storm (r) and Andrea Kremer (l), the only all-female broadcast crew in the NFL, does Amazon’s Thursday night’s games. It would be surprising to see Storm and Kremer as the lead announcers once Amazon gains the exclusive rights, but it would be smart to somehow keep women in the mix. A spokesperson at Amazon said that the two incumbents have not been confirmed yet for the coming season.
- When it comes to talent, remember that more women use Amazon Prime to shop than men so one would think that women will continue to partake in Amazon’s broadcasts down the road.
- Other leagues and digital? The National Hockey League was ahead of the NFL in announcing its new TV rights deal with Disney, which owns Hulu and ESPN. The NHL will identify 75 regular-season games that will run exclusively on Hulu. Viewership for the average NFL regular season game in 2020 was 14.9 million, while the NHL’s premier event, averaged only 2 million viewers across a six-game series.
- College sports have been streamed on ESPN+, and it will be interesting to see if other streaming companies will try to get involved. Other leagues like MLB and NBA have streamed games but do not have the type of presence that the NFL or NHL is planning.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN 2021 WITH NFL’S 17-GAME SEASON
- In 2021, each AFC team will host an NFC team this season as the league expands from 16 to 17 games. Pay attention to how the NFL distributes these games among CBS, Fox and NBC when it releases its schedule within a month.
- The NFL is doing away with Week #1’s traditional Monday Night Football doubleheader on ESPN. There will be a few Monday nights during the season when one game will be carried by ESPN and another on sister ABC. On the new go-around, ESPN will get a Saturday doubleheader during the final week of the NFL season. The schedule will be made up of 18 weeks not 17 as in the past. Each team gets a bye.
- The 17-game schedule will also push the date of the Super Bowl back by a week. Super Bowl 55 will be played on February 13, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will call the game. It will be Michaels’ last with NBC.
- The pre-season schedule is cut from four games to three.
2022 Playoffs on the networks
Sun, 1/30- AFC- 3:05pm – CBS
Sun, 1/30- NFC- 6:40pm – Fox
Sun, 2/13 -6:30pm – NBC