Amazon To Stream Thursday Night N.F.L. Games
Another step toward making it easier to cut the cord.
In yet another example of how cord-cutting is becoming easier, Amazon and the National Football League have announced a deal to stream the league’s Thursday night regular season games on Amazon’s video service:
SEATTLE — Amazon customers will soon be able to watch live football games as part of the retailer’s growing online video service.
The National Football League has reached an agreement with Amazon to allow Amazon Prime customers to stream 10 “Thursday Night Football” games in the coming season, N.F.L. and Amazon representatives said. Prime customers spend $99 a year for a membership that includes free shipping and a video service with a library of movies and TV shows.
Amazon agreed to pay about $50 million for the streaming rights to the N.F.L. games, according to a person briefed on the deal who asked for anonymity because the price was confidential. The amount was about five times the roughly $10 million Twitter agreed to pay the N.F.L. last year for streaming rights to “Thursday Night Football,” this person said.
The agreement represents another step in the delicate dance between tech and entertainment companies as more viewers shift their viewing habits to the internet and digital devices. Amazon and Netflix are pouring money into their video services, both licensing content and producing original programming.
Some viewers of these video services are so-called cord cutters, who forgo cable television subscriptions. Sports remain a big reason people keep their cable services. But ratings wobbled last year for many N.F.L. broadcasts, and the league has grown concerned that younger viewers are not watching football in traditional ways.
Agreements with Amazon and other internet companies are an attempt by the N.F.L. to reach younger fans, even though the league risks alienating the broadcast networks that pay hundreds of millions of dollars in rights fees. For Amazon, the N.F.L. agreement is an attempt to fill one of the biggest holes in its lineup.
Amazon will stream games produced by either CBS or NBC, which air the games on television. The Thursday night games will also air on NFL Network, the league’s cable channel.
Much like last year’s deal with Twitter, this will allow people who don’t have cable to view games broadcast on Thursday, and represents yet another move by one of America’s biggest sports leagues toward the next generation of “broadcasting” as more and more people choose to dump their cable television subscriptions and rely upon Internet video streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Apple TV, and others for their entertainment, news, and sports programming. Given the fact that sports programming remains one of the few pieces of programming left that large groups of Americans tend to tune in to watch en masse and live rather than the “binge watching” that has become more and more common for episodic television. It’s also been one of the few forms of entertainment left that give people the incentive to keep their cable subscriptions since there are only limited streaming opportunities available for live sports at the present time. The most such options become available, the more people will likely be led to leave cable behind. As I’ve said, this issue is likely to be near the top of the list when broadcast contracts such as those between the N.F.L. and the networks are up for renegotiation in the years to come. There’s obviously a lot of money in streaming coming in the future, and it will be interesting to see just how much
As I’ve said before, this issue is likely to be near the top of the list when broadcast contracts such as those between the N.F.L. and the networks are up for renegotiation in the years to come. There’s obviously a lot of money in streaming coming in the future, and it will be interesting to see just how much of it the N.F.L. is willing to allow, and whether it will be used to expand the choices available to football fans by allowing them to watch games featuring their favorite teams even when they aren’t being broadcast in the area where they live. Right now, that’s a benefit generally only available to DirectTV subscribers but one imagines that the league is already considering the possibility of offering team-specific streaming deals that would allow fans of any given N.F.L. team to subscribe to a livestream of their team’s Sunday games regardless of where they live in the country and without the need for a cable or satellite subscription. This will no doubt be a contentious issue between the league and the networks but given the inevitability that livestreaming will become more and more of a phenomenon, it seems clear that the league will likely be able to get away with it.