NFL fans have become accustomed to a certain level of predictability when it comes to the regular season’s televised games. NBC has been home to “Sunday Night Football” since 2006, while ESPN has hosted “Monday Night Football” for just as long. CBS has been broadcasting Sunday afternoon NFL games since 1956, and Fox joined the lineup in 1994. However, the consistency ends when it comes to the Thursday night prime-time broadcast, which has hopped around from the NFL Network to CBS to NBC to Fox since its inception in 2006.
A new chapter unfolds in the broadcast’s story, as starting in 2022 and lasting for the next 11 years, streaming giant Amazon Prime Video will exclusively carry “Thursday Night Football” games. While Amazon has been a prominent player in the streaming industry, gaining momentum with hit shows like “The Boys,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and “The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power,” this move solidifies its status as the sole destination for “Thursday Night Football” in the United States for the foreseeable future.
How Did Amazon Secure Exclusive Rights?
The presence of “Thursday Night Football” on Amazon is not entirely new. They initially acquired non-exclusive streaming rights for some games in 2017, extending the agreement through the 2021 season, allowing viewers to stream games on Twitch, their live streaming platform.
In 2020, reports suggested Amazon was in the lead to secure the exclusive rights for Thursday night games. TV networks conveyed to the NFL that Thursday nights were less desirable, with Disney/ESPN/ABC and Apple also considered potential contenders.
Finally, on March 3, 2021, The Wall Street Journal disclosed that Amazon was the leading candidate to become the home for “Thursday Night Football” games. The report indicated that Amazon would pay between $75 and $100 million. The NFL officially announced on March 18, 2021, that Amazon Prime Video would be the exclusive broadcaster of “Thursday Night Football” from 2023 to 2033. Decider further revealed that Amazon’s agreement with the NFL amounts to a staggering $1 billion per year, with an expanded schedule of 15 games per season.
Commissioner Roger Goodell expressed his excitement about the partnership, stating, “‘Thursday Night Football’ will be our first-ever digital package, and we are thrilled to exclusively partner with Amazon to bring our games to more fans on more platforms. NFL football drives passionate viewers, and Amazon will enable us to continue to grow our fanbase in innovative and compelling ways.”
Despite the anticipated transition starting in 2022, the NFL Network, Fox, and Amazon mutually agreed to withdraw from the final year of their original deal, which would have allowed games to be broadcasted across all three platforms. Fox’s decision was reportedly due to challenges in generating profits on Thursday nights.
What Can Viewers Expect from Amazon’s NFL Broadcasts?
Throughout the 2021 season, Amazon began introducing elements of its “Thursday Night Football” broadcasts. The most notable change was the inclusion of renowned sports announcers. Initially, Al Michaels, the long-time voice of NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” joined the team, followed by Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN’s college football analyst, who has expanded his repertoire to include NFL games.
The visual experience will also be enhanced with the introduction of dual Skycam systems, 13 super-slo-mo cameras, and TrackMan ball-tracking technology, as reported by Sports Video Group.
Moreover, CNBC revealed that Amazon plans to leverage X-Ray technology to display enhanced statistics, incorporating both traditional metrics like passing yards and next-gen stats such as average time to throw and yards after contact. Amazon Fire TV users can utilize voice commands on their remotes to access live statistics and highlight replays throughout the game. Additionally, viewers can choose to watch the game live, from the beginning, or record it for later viewing.
In an agreement with Nielsen, Amazon will also have viewership data tracked for its Thursday broadcasts over the course of three years. Nielsen will monitor pregame, in-game, and postgame broadcast elements on both Amazon Prime Video and Twitch.
On Thursday, fans witnessed the inaugural exclusive broadcast of “Thursday Night Football” on Amazon Prime Video, featuring a highly anticipated matchup between the Chiefs and Chargers. This historic event marks the beginning of a new era for NFL broadcasts, and viewers should prepare for an exciting visual experience that will last until 2033.