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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Amazon Said to Be Paying Record $120M to Stream NFL Playoff Game

  • Is JJ Redick aiming to become ESPN’s Charles Barkley?
  • And Ryan Clark goes public in a bid for a new ESPN contract.
Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Out of the Big Four tech giants, Amazon is the most ambitious about invading live sports. The giant streamer is opening its nearly bottomless wallet for the most valuable programming in entertainment: postseason NFL football.

Prime Video is paying an estimated $120 million for exclusive rights to an NFL playoff game after the 2024 season, sources familiar with the deal tell me. 

That’s more than the $110 million that NBCUniversal’s Peacock paid for an AFC Wild Card playoff game between the Chiefs and Dolphins on Jan. 14. And more than the $100 million Prime itself paid to stream the league’s first-ever Black Friday game between the Dolphins and Jets on Nov. 24.

The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Flint first reported Prime had snagged the rights to next season’s playoff game after passing on the game that ended up on Peacock. The giant streamer won’t make the same mistake again.

Despite fierce backlash to the NFL putting the game behind a paywall, the first-ever live-streamed NFL playoff game on Peacock delivered the goods.  With an average audience of 23 million viewers, it ranked as the most-streamed live event in U.S. history. That figure was up 6% from the previous year’s comparable Wild Card telecast, which drew 21.8 million viewers on the NBC broadcast network and other platforms. Meanwhile, Peacock posted its biggest single day ever with a record 16.3 million concurrent devices. The game generated 30% of the day’s Internet traffic.

Prime didn’t have the same success on Black Friday. The tech giant’s exclusive stream drew only 9.61 million viewers the day after the NFL’s three Thanksgiving Day games averaged a monster 34.1 million viewers.

The NFL has not confirmed whether there will be a second Black Friday game on Prime in 2024. But given how pleased the two partners were about the marriage of football and e-commerce, I’d bet that game becomes another tentpole event on the NFL calendar.

With $575 billion in annual revenue – and a market value of $1.74 trillion – Jeff Bezos could afford $120 million just by collecting the loose change in his couch. Still, it’s another signal Amazon is all-in on live sports compared to the more measured approach of Alphabet’s Google/YouTube, Apple, and Meta.

Both Amazon and the NFL declined comment.

Could Redick Become ESPN’s Barkley?

JJ Redick is coming in hot as the newest member of ESPN’s top NBA announce team with Doris Burke and Mike Breen. On Tuesday, Redick torched former ESPN analyst turned Bucks coach Doc Rivers for allegedly throwing his new team under the bus. “There’s just never accountability with that guy. There’s never accountability,” said the former shooting guard who played four seasons under Rivers with the Clippers. 

The 15-year NBA veteran was immediately ripped by critics like Patrick Beverley, who tweeted: “This man Doc actually saved your career. Started you when no one else wanted [to]. And [you] retire go on TV and say that.” Redick tweeted back, “LOL.”

Despite the furor, Redick’s scorched earth attack on Rivers could be a game-changer. The former Duke legend knows ESPN has been searching for its own Charles Barkley for nearly 25 years: a brutally honest analyst who revels in controversy and pulls zero punches about the NBA’s players and coaches. In less than three years at ESPN, Redick has ascended to the top of ESPN’s NBA depth chart, ahead of Tim Legler and Richard Jefferson. Could Redick become ESPN’s Barkley? I think he’s off to a good start.

Ryan Clark Goes Public

Back in the good old days of, say, 2022, ESPN personalities didn’t negotiate contracts in public. But ESPN talents have become increasingly outspoken. Stephen A. Smith has publicly declared he wants to be the network’s highest-paid talent. And Pat McAfee publicly attacked feared ESPN executive Norby Williamson as a “rat” trying to “sabotage” his show. 

Now Ryan Clark is the one playing chicken with ESPN management. The nine-year veteran posted several eye-opening videos on X (formerly known as Twitter) revealing his contract had expired– along with the hope his “effort” would be valued. “It’s no longer a secret that my contract with ESPN has expired. Heck, I’m the reason it’s no longer a secret,” he wrote.  

It’s a high-risk, high-reward play by the former Steelers star. Clark feels he’s underpaid. He has a strong case for a raise. Clark just won his first Sports Emmy for “Outstanding Personality/Studio Analyst” and he’s a staple on ESPN shows like NFL Live, First Take and Get Up. His podcast, The Pivot, is scoring big guests, like champion boxer Floyd Mayweather.

On the other hand, NFL hosts and studio analysts at ESPN come and go. Just ask Suzy Kolber, Steve Young, Keyshawn Johnson, Matt Hasselbeck, and Rob Ninkovich, each of whom lost their job during ESPN’s most recent downsizing.

Or Trent Dilfer, who like Clark was once a ubiquitous presence on ESPN studio shows. But the Super Bowl-winning quarterback pushed his luck during contract negotiations, according to the New York Post, asking for private plane travel, a la Kirk Herbstreit. ESPN dumped Dilfer in 2017. He’s now a college football coach for Alabama-Birmingham.

Mike Drops 

FuboTV’s attempt to block the three-network streaming service planned by ESPN, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery could just be the first challenge facing the unnamed venture. The Department of Justice also plans to scrutinize the joint venture, according to Bloomberg Law. … Speaking of Amazon, Prime Video just greenlit a documentary about the final 12 days of tennis great Roger Federer’s career. The video was originally a home movie not designed for public viewing. … Shannon Sharpe and Reggie Miller signed contract extensions with ESPN and TNT, respectively. Sharpe’s new deal with ESPN will keep him as a regular contributor on Stephen A. Smith’s First Take through the end of the 2023-2024 NBA season. With Sharpe joining before NFL season, First Take drew its biggest audience ever, averaging 496,000 viewers in 2023. Meanwhile, Miller has signed a long-term extension with TNT Sports that will take him past his 25th anniversary with the network. The Hall of Famer has worked at TNT for 19 years.

Michael McCarthy’s “Tuned In” column is at your fingertips every week with the latest insights and ongoings around sports media. If he hears it, you will, too.

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