Amazon and NFL bring forward exclusive Thursday Night Football deal
Internet giant Amazon is to begin its exclusive deal to show the NFL’s Thursday Night Football games a year earlier than planned, in 2022.
Under the initial agreement signed in March, the company was due to show TNF games from the top American football league exclusively for 10 years beginning with the 2023 season.
Amazon has now extended its agreement with the NFL to 11 years, while other terms of the deal remain the same.
The retail powerhouse has been showing TNF games since 2017.
From the 2022 campaign, Amazon will broadcast 15 games a season, an increase from the 11 it currently offers, to customers of its Prime Video streaming service.
Marie Donoghue, Amazon’s vice president of global sports video, said: “This expedited deal is an immediate differentiator for us as a service, as it gives Prime members exclusive access to the most popular sport in the United States.”
This development means the 2021 season will be the last for TNF on national network Fox, which has been sharing the rights with Amazon since 2018, as well as the league’s own NFL Network.
As part of the NFL’s wider recent long-term media rights deals, Fox did retain its Sunday package of games, and the league's other broadcast partners CBS, NBC and ESPN also extended their deals to 2033.
In a statement, Fox said: “We are a committed partner to the NFL, and we were pleased to acquire the rights to Thursday Night Football in 2018.
“Our priority was to further elevate the TNF package from a production, scheduling and viewership perspective, and we accomplished that objective. The package is as strong as it has ever been, and we will continue to build on that strength in its final season with Fox Sports.”
The NFL said that with its new media agreements, it has “expanded its digital footprint to reach a broader audience and enhanced the ability of its media partners to innovate around their productions and provide interactive elements such as stats/data, chat and integrated social feeds as part of their digital presentations".
TNF games will also be shown free-to-air in the broadcast markets of the participating teams.
Amazon last week evolved its strategy for NFL coverage with the appointment of Marc Patrick as head of sports marketing for Prime Video.
Meanwhile, the NFL drew 12.6 million viewers for the opening day of its draft last Thursday, which made it the second most-watched on record.
The ratings for the draft, which aired on ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes and digital outlets, were up 11 per cent overall over 2019, while digital streaming increased by 54 per cent over 2019.
The 2020 draft achieved record viewership of 15.5 million but this was seen as an outlier as it was held virtually at the height of the coronavirus pandemic and in the initial lockdown phase when live sport was halted.
The Kentucky Derby, one of the country’s most prestigious horse races, returned to its usual May slot this past weekend and drew an audience of 15 million on NBC, the network’s biggest since the NFL playoffs earlier this year.
Last year’s event was moved to September because of Covid-19 and drew an average of 8.3 million viewers, while 2019's Derby, the previous one to be held in the traditional May period, pulled in 16.3 million.