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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Amazon’s Upfront: What It Reveals About the Company’s Sports Plans

  • The online retail and streaming giant announces plans for a new set of sports films.
  • The NFL continues to roll out featured early-season games for the 2024 season.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Amazon is making no secret about its intent to expand its presence in live sports, with NASCAR rights starting in 2025 adding to a U.S. portfolio that already includes the NFL, WNBA, NWSL, MLB’s Yankees, the NHL’s Kraken, and potentially the NBA. But documentaries, a key early foothold in Amazon’s overall sports strategy, is still a critical priority.

The online retail and streaming giant made sports documentaries a prominent part of its 2024 upfront presentation to advertisers, held early Tuesday in New York and marking the company’s first such event. Amazon’s numerous upcoming projects include:

  • A renewal of the Coach Prime series, featuring Colorado Buffaloes coach Deion Sanders (above), for a third season. Despite the team’s 4–8 record last year, Sanders remains one of the most-watched figures in all of college sports
  • A film chronicling the history of Madden NFL, the EA Sports video game that has been one of the most popular titles in the industry for more than three decades
  • Another film on the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., one of NASCAR’s most successful and charismatic figures ever. His son, fellow racing legend Dale Earnhardt Jr., recently joined Amazon as an analyst for the upcoming NASCAR coverage and will also work with TNT Sports
  • A five-part anthology series on Game 7s across sports, including the Cubs’ win in the 2016 World Series and the NHL Rangers’ triumph in the 1994 Stanley Cup Final
  • A look at Xaviar Babudar, the infamous “ChiefsAholic” superfan who was arrested in 2022 for a string of bank robberies 
  • A feature-length documentary on the last stretch of the fabled career of tennis icon Roger Federer. The 20-time Grand Slam winner appeared onstage Tuesday to help herald the project, Federer: Twelve Final Days, that will debut June 20

Splashy NFL Openers

Amazon, meanwhile, also announced its first Thursday Night Football game of the 2024 NFL season, a Bills-Dolphins contest Sept. 12 from Miami. The early disclosure of the streamer’s first game was part of a coordinated set of releases that is turning the league’s schedule unveiling into a three-day event. Among the other initial games that NFL media partners have announced this week:

  • CBS: Bengals-Chiefs on Sept. 15. The late-afternoon national game will follow a similarly high-profile matchup between the Ravens and Chiefs on Sept. 5, also at Arrowhead Stadium and shown on NBC Sports
  • Fox: Cowboys-Browns on Sept. 8. The game, also a late-afternoon national slotting, will be the first Week 1 contest on Fox in five years involving the Cowboys—a team that is perennially one of the NFL’s top draws among viewers. The game is scheduled to be the highly anticipated broadcasting debut of new Fox NFL analyst Tom Brady
  • ESPN: Jets-49ers on Sept. 9. The Disney-owned network will turn to the Aaron Rodgers–led Jets for the second consecutive year to start its Monday Night Football schedule. This time, though, ESPN is certainly hoping for Rodgers to last for more than four plays 

This featured placement of popular teams and marquee matchups in the early going of the NFL season has a deliberate and strategic purpose: to help provide an early shot of momentum to viewership totals as the league attempts to repeat the across-the-board sweep of ratings increases seen in the 2023 season. 

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