The NFL is just as competitive off the field as on the field.
Before the 2022 season kicked off, some executives at the league’s longtime media partners Fox, NBC, CBS, and ESPN privately hoped the new kid on the block, Amazon Prime Video, would fall flat on its face, said sources.
But guess what? The giant streamer drew a younger, more affluent audience than the NFL’s legacy broadcast/cable partners during its first season as the exclusive home of “Thursday Night Football.”
While Amazon’s game viewership was lower than that for the league’s former Thursday Night Football broadcasts across Amazon, Fox, and NFL Network, the e-Commerce giant gave the league plenty of smiles.
“Amazon has earned a strong reputation for making big bets, and given the unprecedented scale of this challenge and the hallowed place that NFL coverage holds among millions of fans, the launch of Thursday Night Football ranks high among our most ambitious enterprises,” said Jay Marine, vice president of Prime Video and global head of sports, in a statement. “We are only at the beginning of a long-term mission, but are ecstatic with the results and achievements of this first season, bringing millions of viewers to Prime Video every week.”
Meanwhile, Amazon is “scrambling” to compensate advertisers for audience shortfalls. The tech giant could give advertisers so-called “make-goods,” or free compensatory ads, according to Business Insider. Viewership was 25% lower than expected, reported BI.
“But advertisers are likely to give Amazon a pass overall, given this was the first season for a streaming-only ‘TNF,’ wrote BI. “Also, Amazon was flexible on ad pricing and has a wide array of offerings — from Freevee and Twitch — that it can leverage to make up for any audience shortfall.”
Amazon streamed 15 regular season TNF games this season as part of its 11-year, $11 billion deal to exclusively show TNF through 2033. TNF was previously shown across a tri-cast of Fox Sports, NFL Network, and Amazon.
- On an apples-to-apples comparison between Thursday night-only telecasts, Amazon averaged 9.6 million viewers per game vs. 13.4 million last year. That’s down 28% from last year. In an apples-to-oranges comparison that included a Saturday Christmas Day game on Fox with 29 million viewers, last year’s TNF averaged 16.2 million viewers. That would be down 41% (Amazon’s own internal metrics had its games averaging 11.3 million viewers).
- All sports leagues are trying to attract younger viewers. Over the 2022 season, TNF viewers had a median age of 47 years old. That was seven years younger than the median age of viewers on traditional linear networks. And the lowest for a full slate of games since 2013.
- Advertisers also love the coveted 18-34-year-old audience. Amazon’s average viewership among viewers aged 18-34 was 2.11 million. That’s up 11% compared to last year. And 22% of Amazon’s viewers were 18-34 this season vs. 14% on linear networks.
- Amazon viewers were more affluent too. According to Nielsen, the streamer’s Thursday Night Football viewers earned a median household income of $98,500. That’s 19% higher than NFL linear networks ($82,800).
- Advertisers also care about time watched. Amazon viewers watched Thursday Night games for an average of 85 minutes this season. That was nine minutes longer than the NFL’s linear partners.
Before this season, Amazon built a broadcast team, hiring Al Michaels, Kirk Herbstreit and Kaylee Hartung for its announcing team and Charissa Thompson, Richard Sherman, Tony Gonzalez, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andrew Whitworth, Taylor Rooks, and Michael Smith for its studio coverage.
With an impressive NFL season in the books, Amazon is now eying an exclusive streaming rights package from the NBA, which will be seeking $50 billion to $75 billion for its next cycle of media rights, said sources.