For nearly a decade, most of the NFL’s Thursday night package has been available on three-letter broadcast TV, with CBS, NBC, and Fox at one time or another holding the rights. This year, for the first time, the bulk of the Thursday games will stream on Amazon Prime.
This requires the NFL and Amazon to make sure football fans know about the change, and that they plan accordingly. That’s the simple explanation for the league’s decision to unveil the opening game of the new Amazon package during the first round of the 2022 draft.
The next question becomes the quality of that game. If the league will be unveiling it during the first round of the draft, it likely won’t be Jaguars-Texans. Peter King recently predicted a Chiefs home game for the Amazon debut, with the Broncos (if they don’t open the season at the Rams the prior Thursday) or the Chargers serving as the opponent.
In partnering with Amazon, the NFL opted for short-term revenue over maximized audience. It will take time and effort to get more people who would have watched the game on CBS, NFC, or Fox to pay $8.99 per month for Amazon Prime’s video service — assuming they have access to a sufficiently effective high-speed Internet connection. It’s also important for the NFL to adapt to the change in viewing habits in order to continue generating the millions of simultaneous viewers the league currently enjoys.
Whatever the ultimate ceiling, the NFL will be trying to start with the highest possible floor. That will include ensuring that Amazon gets the kind of schedule that will make NFL fans feel compelled to add Amazon Prime to their current streaming arrangements — and to use it on Thursday nights during football season.