Enlarge /. HOUSTON, TX – NOVEMBER 22: New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton desperately throws an incomplete pass when Houston Texans Justin Reid sack him during fourth quarter NFL action.
Getty Images / Boston Globe
The NFL finalized its broadcasting deal negotiations for the next eleven years, and a big winner was Amazon, which received exclusive national rights to Thursday Night Football (TNF). Going forward, the NFL's weekly Thursday games will be offered exclusively on Amazon Prime Video, a big change to a package previously broadcast on terrestrial television or over cable.
The deal runs from 2023 to 2033, and according to a report from CNBC, Amazon will pay $ 1 billion a year for the TNF package. Thursday Night Football is the NFL's newest and cheapest TV package, but the deal leaves Amazon closer to parity with the NFL's other licensees, mainstream TV networks like Fox Sports, ABC / ESPN (Disney), CBS (Viacom) and NBC (Comcast) approach). In the CNBC report, the other four channels each pay more than $ 2 billion a year, and unlike Amazon, the TV channels can take turns broadcasting the Super Bowl.
The NFL's new deal also includes streaming regulations for the other providers. Any network can now simulate their games through their streaming service, and some deals have landed an exclusive streaming game or two. Disney's ABC and ESPN games are also allowed on ESPN +, and ESPN + receives one exclusive game per season, the London International Series game. NBC games may also appear on the Peacock streaming service, and Peacock will receive "an exclusive feed of a select number of NFL games". CBS can stream games on Paramount +. Fox Sports, which was not part of Disney's acquisition of Fox, apparently has a streaming service called "Tubi" that can now simulate the Fox games.
Amazon is slowly creeping into the NFL ecosystem
Amazon has been broadcasting TNF games since 2017, including an exclusive game from last season. In retrospect, the games served as a testing process for Amazon, which the NFL apparently proved it could handle streaming a whole range of games. The simulated TNF games were all produced by Fox's broadcast crew and broadcast on the Fox network, so Amazon only broadcast Fox's content over its Internet radio waves. Now with exclusive rights, Amazon has to upgrade its own NFL production team with cameramen, commentators, a graphics package and everything else it takes to make an NFL game. Amazon has a few years to find out.
Amazon's simulated broadcasts landed on Amazon Prime Video and Twitch, which both had some interesting features. In Prime Video, Amazon offered alternative comment options that you can switch between via the app settings. In addition to the standard Fox crew, Amazon offered options for various games for the NFL's first female broadcast duo, commentary for British fans, and commentary focused on scouting. Over at Twitch, watching an NFL game with Twitch chat was certainly a unique experience, and for the only Amazon exclusive game there was a casual stream of the game with ex-NFL players.
Streaming a soccer game on Amazon last season had a couple of drawbacks, namely the lack of DVR-style controls that many fans have become accustomed to. You couldn't pause the stream, record it, do your own instant playback, send a slow-motion response, or skip a commercial if you were left behind. Fans suddenly had to bring an Amazon game to their TV, which meant they needed some kind of streaming device. This last part won't matter much to local fans as local TV channels like the cable-only NFL games can still broadcast your home team's games over the free radio waves.
Live sports programming is one of the few features of terrestrial television that discourages some people from cutting the cable. So what happens to the NFL games is a big deal for the streaming wars. The next big clash between the NFL and the internet is what happens to the NFL Sunday Ticket deal that is currently being signed with DirectTV. Sunday Ticket is the NFL's big money package, offering every single Sunday afternoon game from across the league for about $ 300 per year on top of your regular DirectTV package. The Sunday Ticket deal expires at the end of the 2022 season, and DirectTV, which has just been spun off by AT&T, doesn't appear to be in a financial position to get back in touch with the NFL. There's a good chance a streaming site will pick up the NFL's football-related package.