By erasing the NFL Thursday night football A bundle of the familiar pitfalls of linear television, Amazon Prime Video has eased the airwaves of one of the nation’s top-rated sports properties. In doing so, the streaming service ushered in a new way for advertisers to think about their media buys, one that values the immediacy and smarts of the digital realm over the brutal flattery of pure reach.
Amazon’s data-rich takeover of the NFL promises to accentuate the league’s already considerable charms, and as the inaugural season of the look-Ma-no-TV era of TNFmarketers have lined up to secure their positions in the game. In exchange for joining Amazon on its journey, newbies get what amounts to one hell of a deal.
According to media buyers who have skin in the TNF game, Amazon made a sober assessment of the market, recalling Fox’s performance guarantees a year ago while offering far lower rates than incumbents charge for their own nationally distributed NFL productions. While Fox in its final season of TNF averaged 13.2 million viewers per game – when NFL Network simulcasts were brought into the mix, the Thursday night package scared a weekly draw of 16.2 million viewers – Amazon is aiming a little lower . According to media buyers, Amazon has set its raw performance target at some 12.6 million streamers per game, which is down 22% from last year’s combined deliveries.
In line with the adjusted projections, Amazon is also doing its part to combat sticker shock. While it’s hard to establish a definitive unit cost – rate cards are about as antiquated as rabbit ears, and the streamer writes offers containing customer-specific incentives that allow for all sorts of comparisons from apples to bocce balls with TV – the range we’ve heard from buyers is between $475,000 and $525,000 per 30-second spot. It’s a bargain either way you slice it pallinolike Fox in last year’s upfront sold in game TNF units for around $650,000.
This is probably where all TV comparisons should run out, but human nature being what it is, the Amazon vs. Fox chatter will likely persist throughout the season. Our brains are designed to pick up similarities between fairly disparate things and just Course with them; the same tortured desire to understand the world by analogy is what drove people into the 1903 film audience The Great Train Robbery fleeing the theater for fear of being run over by the cinematic depiction of an oncoming locomotive. (People were pretty stupid back then, which didn’t help matters.)
Since we’re all wired to point at objects and think, “this thing is [un]like this thing,” maybe it’s best if we were to touch on a few convergences — though, again, a lot of what’s interesting about Amazon’s NFL game has to do with where the streamer/retailer is parting ways with the old TV model. In terms of gut-level similarities, Amazon’s reach puts it in league with the most distributed cable networks.
Amazon counted some 80 million active Prime Video households in 2021, which is the same zip code as ESPN’s 78.7 million subscribed viewers this spring, and well ahead of NFL Network’s 56.6 million subscribers. . (The broadcast networks are present in approximately 95 million homes.) As such, the platform itself does not disadvantage Amazon on the viewership acquisition front; if anything, the most immediate challenge is to lure older viewers away from the tube and onto the internet.
Speaking of changing ingrained behaviors, the rush to mass audiences is where the divergence between Amazon and its TV ancestors becomes nearly impossible to ignore. At the risk of indulging in the nastiest form of awkwardness, Amazon’s $1.45 trillion market cap means it doesn’t have to Oliver Twist its way to market, a bowl of mush ready. While hardly insignificant, the $11 billion Amazon pays for the right to stream NFL games live is a manageable expense considering the nine zeros added to the business portion of the company’s valuation. . Even if Amazon struggles to find an audience at first and has to lay down a thick layer of insulation products, the impact on the bottom line will look like a rounding error.
Amazon can afford to adopt the kind of laissez-faire financial strategy championed by Ty Webb (“Here’s an uncashed check for $70,000”), and that same enviable position allows it to take a long-term view on the path to world domination. Advertisers have the ability to place their message in what is arguably the most valuable media environment in the world, only now the NFL is tied to a digital souk where purchases can be made at the very moment of inspiration. Without going too far in the cheerful talk of Madison Avenue, a TNF buy aligns the advertiser with the must-have, uh, “TV,” and with all the first-party consumer insights and data that Amazon can bring to primetime football, it effectively fills the metaphorical marketing funnel from beak to edge.
For all you gee-whizzy about what Amazon hopes to deliver with its new look TNF, much of the presentation will remain one piece with what fans expect from the NFL on linear television. Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit – you may have heard of these guys – will be calling the action, and studio shows will feature artists like Richard Sherman and Tony Gonzalez. The games will also be measured by Nielsen, meaning advertisers will receive the same fundamental ratings information that has served as television’s transactional currency for decades.
Last year, five TNF the games were among the top 100 most-watched shows, including a Browns-Packers Christmas Day outing that drew 28.6 million viewers on Fox. It marked the NFL’s second-biggest regular-season game of 2021, behind only CBS coverage of the Thanksgiving Raiders-Cowboys thriller ($40.8 million). And while no one expects Amazon to be within a mile of Yuletide’s stake, the reach is only a fraction of what TNF can offer advertisers.
As the Chargers-Chiefs open on September 15 approaches, sales have been brisk, leading one shopper to suggest anyone looking to enter the ground floor of the Amazon-TNF partnership had better shake a leg. While the affordable pricing doesn’t last, those who try their luck with Amazon early on will be uniquely positioned to reap the benefits of a partnership down the road, when the concept has proven itself and the unit cost has started to approach. TV broadcast levels.
“We don’t look [TNF] as a replacement for television,” said a national television buyer. “It’s more about enhancing our existing NFL TV purchases with an opportunity to learn more about consumers and how they interact with the things they watch. It’s like TV on steroids, only HGH makes you smarter rather than just bigger, badder and faster.