For the NFL, streaming isn’t the future. It’s the present. One executive whose business model arguably could end up being stuck in the past had something to say about the 2022 shift of Thursday Night Football from one of the networks he runs to Amazon.
Via Joe Flint of the Wall Street Journal, Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch made this comment at the MoffettNathanson conference regarding the notion that Amazon’s reach for TNF is down 42 percent following the shift from Fox: “If I’m an NFL owner, that’s a disaster for me.”
Frankly, it all comes down to how an owner defines “disaster.” Amazon is paying considerably more than Fox was for TNF. That’s not a disaster. The audience is smaller than it would have been on three-letter network TV.
The NFL knew the audience would shrink with the prime-time pivot to streaming. The NFL is now trying to do what it can to boost the prime-time audience, from doubling up on the number of times a team can be asked to play on Thursday after playing on Sunday to the looming vote on the ability to flex Thursday night games late in the season.
In this regard, the NFL isn’t simply thinking about where the puck is going. It’s attempting to apply a slap shot to the projectile.
By moving one of the prime-time packages to streaming and by shifting both a late-season Saturday night game (Bills-Chargers, December 23) and a prime-time wild-card game to Peacock, the NFL isn’t waiting for the shift to streaming to take root. The NFL is sprinkling seeds and tilling soil.
Whether it’s successful isn’t the issue. The league had to do it. Faced with a choice between being on the cutting edge of the future of TV consumption or being dragged into tomorrow kicking and screaming, the NFL is opting to embrace the not-so-new world of streaming.