A review of Amazon’s first exclusive Thursday NFL game

“Thursday Night Football” Season Kickoff Party Hosted by Amazon Prime and Prime Video
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Last night wasn’t Amazon’s first NFL rodeo. It was, however, the biggest Bezos bull ride to date. By far.

By plunking down $1 billion per year for Thursday night games previously seen by the much larger audience a three-letter network can muster, Amazon secured exclusive dibs on the game. On one hand, it was part of an historic pivot to streaming. On the other hand, and as Chris “Mad Dog” Russo so entertainingly put it on his SiriusXM show, it was a money grab.

Amazon started simulcasting 10 Thursday night games per year in 2017. In 2020, it had an exclusive Saturday game between the 49ers and Cardinals. Last night was its first exclusive Thursday game on its new contract with the NFL. (Initially, Amazon was scheduled to take the games as of 2023. Amazon started a year early, supplanting Fox’s $660 million annual payment.)

So how did it go? Not from the standpoint of quality of the broadcast (it’s frowned upon, as I’ve learned the hard way over the years, for folks employed by one network’s NFL game coverage to comment on another network’s NFL game coverage), but from the perspective of the streaming experience.

My household shifted to streaming a few years ago, ditching DirecTV and adopting YouTube TV. I was nervous about it at the time, but our dedicated, high-speed fiber line and routers up and/our out the wazoo made the transition seamless. The picture is clear and clean and there’s rarely anything more than a flash of a buffer.

Also, it’s very easy to pause, rewind, and fast forward on YouTube TV. That’s something that can get taken for granted.

I learned that last night. I paused the game at one point in the first quarter because my 57-year-old body contains a 57-year-old prostate. The plan was to catch up after returning. But there was no way to fast forward to the exact spot where the game began again. So I overshot. Then I had to go backward. I went too far. Meanwhile, more of the game is happening. So I just used a Lee Corso catch phrase and watched the damn commercials. It was, to say the least, frustrating.

But at least the image was clear, and there was no issue with audio not matching video. Other than the inability to quickly navigate via fast forward and rewind (and the obvious inability to change channels without exiting the app and pulling up YouTube TV), it was great.

Then came the second half. I paused during halftime (popcorn, whiskey, prostate, cigar), and then I did the fast-forward game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey mixed with Whack-A-Mole. While trying to catch up, I somehow was taken all the way back to the commencement of the pregame show.

I don’t know how it happened. Maybe I did something on my remote. I don’t think I did. Even if I did, the interface should be designed to present idiots like me from doing idiotic things.

And so I had to fast forward through 75 minutes of pregame chatter, two quarters of football, and halftime before getting to the third quarter. It took time. And the game kept going, with me not knowing what was happening — and knowing I’d have to watch the stuff I missed and then dare to try to catch up by forwarding through the commercials.

Finally, I found the right spot in the broadcast. And that’s when the buffering began. Three seconds off, two seconds on. Continuously. Non-stop. I wondered whether every Thursday night will be like this. I actually considered just exiting the app and watching the rest of the game later on NFL+. (I forgot that the game is also available to watch live on NFL+.)

It definitely wasn’t an issue with my Internet. I never have issues like that with YouTube TV, or any other streaming service.

Bottom line? Whatever caused the incessant buffering must be ironed out. And the ability to fast forward and rewind must be improved, allowing for an easy and reliable way to stop in the right spot.

It’s almost as if they’ve engineered the controls to discourage people from trying to not watch the commercials. Unless and they quickly make the appropriate changes to the ability to get through the commercials and back to the game, maybe that’s precisely the reason for making it so hard to do it.

51 responses to “A review of Amazon’s first exclusive Thursday NFL game

  1. Thank You, Mike. I didn’t start watching till the 3rd qtr. My wife came in from a girls night out dinner. She asked me if I was watching a replay from the 90s or something till she saw Mahomes on the field.
    Bad quality, bad in game experience as you noted. I rebooted my stuff, just in case it was me.
    Nope. Amazon needs to fix it. I think they have the $$$ to do that.

  2. I have been streaming exclusively for almost 4 years and I have never had the issue talked about in the article. Seems to me it’s more of a user issue than anything else.

  3. Can Kirk get up to speed on NFL rules please? I ball carrier must be moving forward when going out of bounds to get the clock to stop. Kirk was totally befuddled — Why isn’t the clock stopping?

  4. I didn’t have any buffering issues, but the it was continually pixilating down to a SD-like picture. I never had issues with the previous amazon streams on Thursdays, but I’m thinking they weren’t fully ready for the increased traffic. (Which is odd, considering AWS hosts a very high percentage of web services.)

  5. It probably won’t last forever but in Canada we were able to watch it not just terrestrially but over-the-air. Fingers crossed that CTV can re-up whatever deal they have for the games.

  6. I’ve been anti-streaming from the get go. The next time The Sunday Ticket buffers on DirecTV Will be the first time The Sunday Ticket buffers on DirecTV. NFL needs to provide a cable/satellite component for The Sunday Ticket and not just stick it on Amazon or Apple.

  7. I started about 45 minutes late and was able to rewind to the beginning. The FF and rewind were brutal though and took a long time to get to the right place as you don’t get any feedback. It was so hard to skip commercials that I just gave up (probably their intent all along) Other than that I didn’t experience any buffering even after I caught up with realtime at the start of the 2nd half.

  8. The broadcast itself was fine in terms of picture quality. Something was off with the sound. You couldn’t really hear the fans or the game action. No “thump” of the ball when it was punted, etc. I like to DVR my games and start watching them an hour or so in so I can at least blow through the commercials in the early quarters. The fast forward controls on Amazon prime are HORRIBLE. I managed to skip the entire first quarter. Trying to go back was a chore. Get that fixed Amazon!!

  9. I saw no buffering. Maybe that’s because I wasn’t trying to play games with pausing, fast forwarding, rewinding, etc. Other than a relative lack of crowd noise, it seemed like any other game to me.

  10. There was one time early when I had a 2-3 second buffer. The rest of the game was fine. I didn’t try to pause or rewind because I figured it would be dicey, and it sounds like it was! It would be really nice for that to work.

    As for the broadcast… the Michaels/Kirk Herbstreit team is going to take some getting used to.

  11. Didn’t watch watch ……..like millions and millions of other NFL fans. That’s how it went.

  12. I won’t watch any game on these increasingly annoying speciality apps .. if it’s not on NBC, CBS or FOX I won’t watch it.

    Watched Carlito’s Way last night .. which wasn’t as good as I originally thought.

    Chiefs won? Meh .. wake me when it’s mid season and the teams have their kinks ironed out.

  13. Tried to catch the second half. Could watch anything on Prime except the game. Just got Accessing Prime Video and tho wheel spun and spun and spun…

  14. Many of us don’t have the options you have for service. We barely have internet service.

  15. Al Michaels is still great, but Kirk Herbstreit doesn’t fit as a partner. He almost feels “intimidated” at times working with him.

    The only weird moment on commentary was when Justin Herbert turned down an easy run for first down on 3rd and 1 to throw the ball painfully and miss. Herby pointed out how he could have easily run for first a couple different ways and Michaels seemed confused and kept pointing out how much pain Justin looked to be in when he threw it.

  16. I had the exact same experience, with a few caveats.
    I started watching at 9pmCt and started from the beginning.
    I too have YoutubeTv, and i already knew YoutubeTv was the greatest when it came to fastforwad and reverse, you can see exactly where you are and what you are fastforwarding through. Genius and very efficient.
    It took me a while to navigate, or understand how to navigate. And yes, at least 3 times i was sent back to the start when attempting to pause and resume or fastforward.
    Plus it took forever to fastforward….It took close to 15 seconds for it to fastforward through 120 seconds of commercials…plus 10 second increments? seriously?
    I did have some fuzzy moments of video, too many, i thought, and i have 1 gig service also. I even switched ethernet to see if it was the wifi. same. so not sure there.
    They definitely have some work to do. But otherwise it was fine.

  17. Oh…one last thing. That TNF logo is quite unbecoming for a Giant like Amazon…i appreciate the simplicity, but come on.

    The music though, that thing stuck in my head immediiately.

  18. Watching on amazon prime (thru roku player) problems were encountered you said you didn’t have. Audio and video totally didn’t match up just prior to kickoff. 3 commercials were shown while the audio was the game announcers. From the start of the scond half onward, the video was blurry, way worse than even standard definition. I was stunned by such poor coverage to be provided for so huge of a viewing market. It was like the amateur hour attempt at providing coverage.

  19. I tried tuning in on a Roku box. I had the same problems with time-seeking that Mike mentioned, and the video stuttered — a tiny but very noticeable pause every five seconds or so. There seemed to be more commercials than usual, too, with every commercial break lasting a good four minutes. Maybe the video problems are down to the Roku being 7 years old… but I don’t have that problem on any other streaming channel, including regular programs on Prime Video. It was REALLY irritating and I turned it off after a few minutes. I imagine they’ll iron out the problems eventually — after all, Bezos has all the money in the universe to throw at it — but until then I’ll watch the replays.

  20. I didn’t have buffering issues but the video seemed to go from HD to lower def from time to time. I agree 100% the rewind and fast forward have a mind of their own. I found it difficult to navigate..maybe that’s intentional so you will give up and watch the commercials like I did.

  21. Watching it on my TV it was wonky like Mike’s – closed captions randomly coming on and off, FF and RW issues then there was a “go live” button I couldn’t really manipulate. It was frustrating enough to make me switch off the TV and grab my iPad. Had zero issues with the iPad.

  22. Amazon Prime – Per their website – requires 15-20mbps of bandwidth to best stream their content. We have less than 5 here at my house in NC on an antiquated DSL service. They are the only provider here. I’m signed up for Starlink, but that deployment is uncertain.

    There is a solution already at hand. DirecTV broadcasts TNF on channet 9526 to bars and restaurants that do not stream. If for underserved areas, this channel could be enabled, problem solved. I’d be happy to pay for the service. I’d have Prime already if our broadband could support it.

    If Sunday Ticket goes streaming only without satellite back up, there will be a lot of the country in rural areas that simply won’t be able to access the product.

  23. I feel like most of the issues are user, setup, or IP related. I watched on my Google TV and the picture and audio were absolutely crystal clear. I don’t know why you would pause halftime…that’s what halftime is for..?

    I was also more interested in what Bezos was talking to Goodell about. He did not seem to be enjoying it

  24. Picture was clean and didn’t have buffering problems until trying to pause. During games I like to hit the 30 second go back to review a play or pause to see something isolated. Streaming sucks for that. At least you could go to the landing page and the score wasn’t revealed that was a big concern of mine. I hope the Sunday Ticket doesn’t go to a streaming only platform.

  25. I tried to watch on Amazon but the quality was like watching a game in the late 60s on a crappy color TV. Unwatchable. My son told me he was watching at his house on YouTube TV so I switched over at halftime and it was glorious by comparison.

  26. I had a de-sync (where mouths were moving not in sync with the sound) after I paused it for a minute. Only solution was to restart the app (using Roku). This fixed it (I did it during the commercial), and it went back almost to the point I left off. But that ff is terrible. At least with the old Tivo you could have some precision control. Lots to work on, for sure…..

  27. Chances are it will be much better next week. When DAZN starting streaming a few years ago, week 1 was a total disaster. It only took until week 2 to get things running smoothly.

  28. I have zero problems using an apple Tv, Though the image could have been better, only 1080p, Amazon can afford streaming in 4k as an option.

  29. I used Amazon Prime through a smartTV using fios. I had no issues at all. Its just like watching on regular cable except changing channels is more complicated

  30. The reasons these TV deals are so lucrative is solely due to the advertising dollars that come with it! Ticket sales are a small fraction of the players/teams salaries. These silly commercials are the gas that fuels the NFL’s business.

    So yeah, if I was the NFL I’d being doing everything to make it difficult to skip those commercials too.

    Commercials are what make each team worth billions rather than millions.

  31. So how long will this Prime Video experiment last? Just go to YouTube. A lot of fans are complaining about TNF. Most couldn’t watch it. The game also should have aired on NFL Network and Fox.

  32. Some minor buffering issues. My complaint is that while close-up shots were crystal clear, long shots were blurry. It was like a TV picture in the 1960s. And no, it is NOT my setup, because anything else on Amazon is always crystal clear. I think Amazon was overloaded with viewers, and couldn’t handle it.

  33. No real major issues but as noted above had to turn up sound, did not even dare to pause and Herbie was in over his head.

  34. Buffering is a result of a spotty internet connection. It’s when data packets aren’t getting through and the feed has to compensate. I watched the game on my cell phone, and it was awesome! Full screen landscape, 1/3 screen portrait but there was interactive stats, replays etc while watching live. Try your cell next time Florio!

  35. I watched via a Roku device. I was getting a nice beautiful 1080P picture. I have a 1GB connection and had zero issues buffering. Pause, fast forward and rewind were not enabled until midway thru the first quarter after a rowdy crowd was calling out the Amazon Prime Help on Twitter. Long ago when using a DVR to watch games, I learned the time out duration pattern for fast forwarding. If you stick with a 2 minute jump, you won’t overshoot anything.

  36. Best NFL viewing experience I ever had. Sound was fine, captions were perfect, paused/FF/Rewound just fine..

    Sony Bavaria TV, AT&T Hi Speed Fiber, and latest software update on the TV and the Prime app.

    Can’t wait to try 4K some day…

  37. Why do I pay $300 plus for NFL ticket and then have to go through Prime to watch on Thursday night? How greedy can the NFL be?

  38. Both of those companies (Google and Amazon) are predatory and serious violators of personal privacy. I wouldn’t give them a dime going forward knowing what I know now. I’m also not happy with the NFL taking political and social stances, not to mention how extreme they are, so I no longer pay for that as well. It’s been hard to wean off of football completely as it’s been a lifetime of interest and enjoyment, but I’m getting closer. I’m down to just watching highlights mostly. Between these monster financial deals with different entities, how they rape their customers with monopolistic practices, and the above mentioned issues, it’s a wonder more people don’t look elsewhere for entertainment. Television allowed football to create a tribal atmosphere between cities and regions, and they profit off of that wildly. Time and money may be better spent on live activities of your own with family and friends. It’s an addiction that more people should be trying to break. One day at a time.

  39. No buffering issues and was able to rewind and FF with no issues. Would have drove me crazy if I had the issues you all were having. Highlight replay feature with stats was great!

  40. As frequently happens, my only problem was me. Excited to see the game when I pulled up the streamcast I choose “start from the beginning “. After 10 minutes of talking heads I dozed off. When I woke I was able to see 40 more minutes of talking heads. Then the game began, about an hour twenty minutes after it uhhhh, began. It’s all on me.

  41. If I tried to rewind a play, it got really pixelated and wouldn’t fix even when I fast forwarded back to live. I had to exit the app then get back on again.

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