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The NFL season begins Thursday, kicking off the first season of Amazon’s multibillion-dollar deal with the league to be the exclusive home of 15 Thursday Night Football broadcasts, a pivotal year for the company as it looks to prove the value of its multibillion-dollar commitment to breaking into live sports.
Thursday’s game between the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams will air on NBC, but Amazon Prime will air all remaining Thursday night games, beginning with next week’s matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers.
Thursday Night Football may be Amazon’s splashiest sports investment to-date, but the company has already tested out exclusive sports broadcasts on a smaller-scale, exclusively airing broadcasts for the the MLS’ Seattle Sounders since 2020 and 21 broadcasts of the MLB’s New York Yankees this season for Amazon Prime members in the teams’ respective regions.
Amazon may be the technology giant most exposed to live sports, but its competitors aren’t far behind: Apple signed a 10-year, $2.5 billion deal to exclusively air MLS games this year and a 7-year, $595 million deal with MLB this spring to broadcast two regular season games each Friday night, while Google has reportedly bid on the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package, competing with Amazon and Apple.
Before acquiring the exclusive rights for Thursday Night Football, Amazon streamed a simulcast of the television broadcast on Prime for several years, paying the NFL more than $50 million annually. Live sports have become increasingly valuable as ratings for other broadcasts sink, and the NFL signed an 11-year, $110 billion media rights contract with Amazon, CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC last year. NFL games accounted for 75 of the 100 most viewed television broadcasts in the U.S. last year.
What To Watch For
NFL broadcast booths will look drastically different this season after several announcers left their prior homes for richer contracts. Michaels left NBC as its lead play-by-play announcer to join Amazon, and was replaced by Mike Tirico at his old network. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman left Fox Sports to call Monday night games for ESPN, inking deals reportedly worth $15 million or more per year per person. Kevin Burkhardt replaced Buck as Fox’s top play-by-play announcer, and the network announced in May that legendary quarterback Tom Brady will join Burkhardt in the booth after he retires.
A record 46.6 million Americans plan to bet on the NFL this season, according to a survey released Wednesday by the American Gaming Association, as the league continues to rely on gambling to drive viewership.
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