TV network execs likely aren’t losing sleep over any serious ratings drop because of Amazon’s blitz into pro football: This week, the e-commerce kingpin kicks off its live-streaming of 11 NFL “Thursday Night Football” games to customers across the globe.
Amazon’s first “Thursday Night Football” live-stream will be Sept. 28, in a classic face-off between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers. The run concludes with a Christmas Day meeting between Pittsburgh and Houston.
The games will be available to Prime Video members in more than 200 countries and territories (excluding China, where Amazon hasn’t launched video) — a global reach that Amazon execs say was critical for the NFL. “There aren’t many companies that can deliver a worldwide live event like this,” says Jim DeLorenzo, head of sports for Amazon Video.
But the Amazonian gridiron foray could mark just the earliest days of deep-pocketed technology giants pursuing the TV rights to league deals that for years have served as the glue that holds together the TV bundle. “Imagine the scenario when Amazon is joined by Google, Facebook and Apple at the table in direct opposition to the networks that have historically battled for the prize,” says Mike Bloxham, senior VP at research firm Magid.
That’s already starting to happen. Facebook earlier this month entered a losing bid of $600 million for five-year rights to Indian Premier League cricket matches (Star India paid $2.6 billion for broadcast and streaming rights). Both Amazon and Facebook have been rumored to be interested in English Premiere League soccer rights, while Twitter (which lost the NFL “Thursday Night Football” digital package to Amazon) has begun streaming weekly MLB games and a bouquet of second-tier live sports.