Thursday Night Football will have a new television home next fall, with Fox buying linear rights away from NBC and CBS, but the franchise’s digital host won’t change in the near future.
The NFL announced Thursday that Amazon has renewed its TNF rights for two seasons, keeping the 11-game package on its platforms through 2019. Amazon will also make the contests available on Twitch, the streaming platform it acquired in 2014.
Per ESPN’s Darren Rovell, Amazon paid about $65 million per year for TNF, up 30 percent from what it forked over last year. Amazon reportedly faced competition from Twitter, YouTube and Verizon for the package, which seems to feature slightly better games this coming season than it has in the past.
“Amazon was a tremendous partner for Thursday Night Football in 2017 and as we continue our mission of delivering NFL games to fans whether they watch on television or on digital platforms, we are excited to work with them again for the next two seasons,” NFL executive Brian Rolapp said in a statement. “Having over 100 million Amazon Prime members provides a massive platform to distribute Thursday Night Football digitally, not only to our fans in the United States but also around the world.”
It makes reasonable sense that Amazon would want to re-up with the NFL — and bid aggressively to do so. Last season, its first streaming TNF, the company built up some impressive infrastructure, experimenting with international feeds in multiple languages. And as our Andrew Bucholtz wrote a year ago when Amazon first acquired this package, the digital giant can sell subscriptions against TNF games (which can be viewed only with a Prime subscription), unlike, say, former TNF rightsholder Twitter, which would have a harder time monetizing these rights.
Amazon already has tons of paid Prime subscribers, who get both free shipping on Amazon orders and access to the company’s extensive and ever-growing library of movies and TV shows (which is including more and more originals).
Adding high-quality content like the NFL may help Amazon retain those subscribers, and that matters. Even more importantly, it could help them add many more Prime subscribers. That would let Amazon make money from new subscriber fees as well as ads on the broadcasts, giving them more revenue streams than most of their competitors.
As Andrew pointed out, Amazon can even afford to take a loss on TNF if the games help attract Amazon Prime subscribers who then become loyal Amazon customers.
And so the TNF rights carousel has finally come to a halt. Thursday-night games will be available on Fox, Fox Deportes, NFL Network, Amazon and Twitch. Viewers, take your pick.