The platform for Thursday Night Football will change dramatically in 2022. And the NFL will be doing everything it can to put its best foot forward as short-week football pivots to cord cutters.
“There are so many people who aren’t watching linear television anymore, and they’re streaming,” Roger Goodell said Monday night at an Amazon event in New York, which was also attended by Amazon’s booth tandem of Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit. “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.”
Goodell added that the league expects to have all 14 playoff teams from 2021 appear on the Amazon platform this year.
On the surface, that’s an eyebrow-raiser. However, Amazon will televise 15 games this year. And there won’t be any repeat teams. So it should be expected that all playoff teams from last season will make it. Most teams will make it, with only two not included in the Amazon package.
“I really believe that Amazon Prime’s going to change the way people watch football,” Goodell said. “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.”
The league likely will experience a short-term hit when it comes to audience size, given the shift from Fox (and other three-letter over-the-air networks before that) to streaming. Amazon will have to push the new product aggressively, and the NFL will need to do the same. They have a mutual interest in maximizing viewership via the Amazon Prime platform, at $8.99 per month.
In eight days, we’ll know the full Amazon schedule for the first year of the exclusive Thursday night relationship. Then, the more specific and aggressive efforts to market the product and increase awareness can begin.