Amazon Kicks Off ‘Thursday Night Football’ Coverage

Amazon will step onto the live streaming sports field tonight (Sept. 28) with its coverage of the Chicago Bears-Green Bay Packers Thursday Night Football contest, part of a new 10-game, $50 million streaming rights agreement with the National Football League.

Amazon hopes the package will help further enhance the value of its Amazon Prime subscription for sport fans while better positioning the streaming service to acquire additional live sports content.

Amazon head of sports Jim DeLorenzo discussed its NFL streaming deal along with Amazon’s future live sports acquisition aspirations as part of an interview held at the company’s Sept. 21 press reception touting its Thursday Night Football deal. 

Tom Umstead: How big is the NFL Thursday night deal in terms of boosting the value and appeal of the Amazon Prime brand?

Jim DeLorenzo: We’re looking at what’s good for our customers as opposed to what’s good for the brand, and that’s not just for sports but for anything we do. In this situation, the NFL is obviously super popular both in the US and internationally, and because of that we view it as a really good opportunity to provide a great benefit to our customers. Its something that Prime members are really going to enjoy.

TU: Are you expecting to draw new sports fans to Amazon with the NFL deal?

JD: We’re not really commenting on whether we feel the deal will grow the [Amazon] audience or whether it will be the same, but I do think that it’s something that our current Prime members will find really compelling.

TU: How will Prime members find the Thursday Night Football games?

JD: We’ll be rolling out a number of different ways to market that and to make sure that leading up to the game everybody is very much aware of the right way to access it, whether on the web, through [Amazon] FireTV, or through the app on your phone. 

TU: Will Amazon look to acquire more live sports content in the near future?

JD: We just recently announced that we did a deal with the ATP for the Next Gen ATP Finals tournament, which is their under 21 year old tennis players. Beyond that, we’re just going to have to see how things progress, and we’re always looking for opportunities to try and benefit our customers. If something comes along we could potentially do it, but for now we’ll see how things go.

TU: You mentioned the NFL is popular, but the league has suffered some ratings declines early in the season. Are you concerned about the NFL brand not being as strong as it was when you completed the deal?

JD: For us, we look at it and say that the NFL is massively popular – I think a lot of leagues would want to be where the NFL is in terms of the viewers. We look at that and say there are a ton of Amazon Prime members who are NFL fans, and for us that’s why it made a lot of sense for us to look at those rights.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.