DIRECTV and Amazon have signed a multi-year deal that will permit the satcaster to provide Thursday Night Football broadcasts to more than 300,000 bars, restaurants, hotel lounges and other business venues.
For the first time, Amazon this season has the exclusive rights to the TNF games but the DIRECTV agreement is an acknowledgement that many commercial establishments are not yet equipped to handle the streaming of live sports.
“This agreement between Amazon and DIRECTV for Business comes at an important time when more streaming companies are obtaining exclusive rights to marquee sports programming and fans want to cheer on their teams at home and while out at bars, restaurants and other businesses with friends, family and coworkers,” Rob Thun, DIRECTV’s chief content officer, said in a press release.
Since Amazon won the rights to the Thursday Night Football games last spring, bar and restaurant owners have been concerned that they would be unable to provide them to their customers. Many bars and restaurants would have to spend thousands of dollars to upgrade their Internet infrastructure to handle the games.
In addition, both bar/restaurant owners and fans have voiced concerns that live sports via streaming sometimes comes with a delay of 30-60 seconds behind the real time action. In an era where fans are often engaging in social media exchanges during the game, that could create considerable awkwardness in the bar or restaurant. Patrons could tell their fellow customers the outcome of a play before it happens.
However, DIRECTV has been providing NFL Sunday Ticket games to bars and restaurants for more than two decades, a service that is well regarded within the industry. The satcaster should be able to deliver the Amazon games without difficulty or delays.
DIRECTV said in the press release that any current DIRECTV For Business customer subscribing to a Business Entertainment plan or above will automatically receive the Amazon Thursday Night Football feed for free. The Amazon games will be available on DIRECTV’s channel 9526. (Games involving in-market teams will be available on a local channel in those markets.)
Amazon’s first regular season Thursday night game will be on September 15 when the Kansas City Chiefs play the Los Angeles Chargers at 8 p.m. ET. The streamer will show the 49ers-Texans pre-season game on August 25.
The DIRECTV-Amazon partnership could be a template for a future arrangement between the satellite TV service and the winner of the next NFL Sunday Ticket contract. Streamers Amazon, Apple, Google and Disney (for ESPN+) are all bidding for the rights; the winner might need DIRECTV to again provide the broadcasts to bars and restaurants.
DIRECTV, which is not bidding to retain its exclusive rights to carry the Ticket after the 2022 season, could be interested in subleasing rights from the winning streaming company so it could continue to service bars and restaurants and perhaps rural customers who don’t have reliable access to the Internet.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league is expected to issue a decision on the next contract by year’s end, if not sooner.
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— Phillip Swann