With Amazon set to take over an exclusive primetime NFL window starting this fall, it’s no surprise that the league would send Roger Goodell to make an appearance at Amazon’s NewFront presentation.
(Get it? Because it’s not some lame “upfront” presentation like all those other uncool works. It’s a NewFront! Amazon, what will you think of next?)
Goodell offered some very Roger Goodell remarks on the league’s new partnership:
“There are so many people who aren’t watching linear television anymore, and they’re streaming. So we wanted to be able to reach them and we really believe strongly in partnerships, and we wanted to make sure that we’re reaching the broadest audience, but we wanted to make sure a partner that could deliver that audience, and Amazon Prime was the partner we wanted because we knew they would.”
“We believe that we’re going to be able to help build an audience for Amazon Prime, but also Amazon Prime is going to build an audience for the NFL.”
It’s clearly a forward-thinking move by the NFL. Thursday remains by far the least attractive primetime window; even on network television it still always just felt a bit flat. And while plenty of people aren’t watching linear television anymore, there are still much bigger audiences available via the traditional network route. What this deal actually came down to was Amazon being willing to pay a lot of money for it, and the NFL realizing that it has the variety of packages and deals in place to essentially hedge across various companies.
Already in business with CBS, Fox, NBC, and Disney/ESPN/ABC, the league will now have a working relationship with one of the biggest tech companies in the world. Combined with rumors that the NFL is considering packaging a variety of remaining pieces (including, maybe, Sunday Ticket) to Apple, and it’s clear this is part of a wider strategy. It’s hard to find fault with it, either; if streaming really is the future of viewing, than they’re in on something like the ground floor with at least one of the biggest companies in the business. (Disney probably counts on all fronts here, too.)
And if it turns out to be more of a bubble than anything else, well, there’s always the legacy networks the league has continued to work with. They’re not cutting out old partners as they go, they’re cutting smaller pieces of the pie and bringing on new distribution channels.
The rest of Goodell’s remarks continued on a similar theme, with a nod towards the potential for Amazon to shake up presentation. (Though that feels somewhat unlikely, given the fact Amazon chose to bring in plenty of veteran NFL production and on-camera experience.)
“I really believe that Amazon Prime’s going to change the way people watch football. I don’t believe we’re going to just take a television broadcast and put it on a different platform. I believe that the platform, a digital platform, and Amazon’s platform is going to allow us to do things that we’ve only dreamed about to date.”
“We really focus on, how do we reach more fans? And I think this relationship and our Thursday night platform is going to be key to that. I believe we’ll be able to reach fans where they are, the way they want to engage, and also use more innovation to be able to engage them longer and different than we have today. We’re really excited by that. We think that’s really the future of our relationship with our fans, and we’ll have a deeper relationship with them because of it.”
“We are in a competitive environment across all of entertainment, and the media world is changing dramatically. I think you have to just continually look to see how you can improve. Don’t get ingrained in a particular approach. Bring in great partners like Amazon. And keep looking to find ways to engage your fans differently. Fantasy football was big, legalized sports betting is out there now. International growth. We just think that this is an opportunity for us to really build Thursday night as a football night too. We expect to have all 14 of our playoff teams on Thursday Night Football.”
It’s always tough to tell exactly how much understanding Roger Goodell possesses when speaking on issues like this, but in this specific instance, it’s hard to find much fault with what he’s saying. The league got the bag from Amazon to put their worst primetime game in a place that will be harder for fans to find now, but could possibly pay off in the long-term, while also executing part of a wider distribution strategy that feels like the right mix of growth opportunity and stability.
The NFL is always playing with the strongest hand, but here they seem to be playing it well.
[photo credit: Zach Hetrick for Amazon]