News and Analysis

The NFL has reached an agreement with Amazon to allow the etailer to live stream 10 Thursday Night Football games during the 2017 season.

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The games will be available for free to Amazon Prime customers who pay $99 a year for a membership that also includes free two-day shipping on select products; unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows; and other benefits.

The New York Times reports that Amazon paid $50 million for the NFL streaming rights, which was a hefty but likely necessary price tag to edge out other bidders.

Twitter last year captured the Thursday Night Football streaming rights with a bid of just $10 million. Amazon’s willingness to dramatically increase the stake is a sign of both the etailer’s ambitions and the increasingly competitive live streaming business.

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Amazon has been hinting it wanted to offer live programming to accompany its Prime library, and the NFL games will mark its first move in the category. The company likely hopes the NFL broadcasts will both increase sales of football-related products at as well as Prime memberships.

However, it should be noted Twitter’s live streaming of Thursday Night Football was seen by a small number of people compared to the traditional broadcasts on CBS and the NFL Network. (The New York Times writes that Twitter’s average viewership for any given minute was just 266,000.)

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In addition, the games this season can also be streamed on CBS All Access, NBC apps and smart phones operated by Verizon, which will keep the Amazon streaming audience minuscule. (And they will air on the NFL Network and, at different times, on CBS and NBC.)

Bottom line: Amazon may need to sell a lot of footballs and t-shirts to make up for that $50 million investment.

— Phillip Swann