Amazon and the National Football League are “on the verge” of what one analyst calls a “watershed” deal that will see the second most popular broadcast TV weekly program, Thursday Night Football, migrate primarily to video streaming.
The Wall Street Journal said a deal between the e-commerce giant and the NFL could be announced next week that would see the majority of Thursday night NFL games move to Amazon Prime Video, starting in the 2023 season.
Amazon might pay as much as $1 billion a year for these sports video rights.
Richard Greenfield, LightShed Partners analyst, used his blog to call the reported pact a “watershed” agreement that will further erode the position of broadcast TV stations.
“It is not catastrophic in and of itself as [Thursday Night Football] did not drive retrans dollars, but Thursday Night Football is the No. 2 most watched broadcast TV series, second only to Sunday Night Football.”
The FOX Broadcast Network is currently the primary stakeholder in Thursday Night Football, paying $660 million a year for a package that expires after the 2022 season. Amazon currently pays between $75 million - $100 million a year to stream these Thursday games, which are also shown on basic cable channel the NFL Network, WSJ said.
Under the new deal, Amazon would ramp up its own production personnel and infrastructure, and Prime Video’s live-stream component Twitch would be the primary home for NFL Thursday nights.
The NFL Network would maintain rights to certain Thursday night games, WSJ reported. But in terms of broadcast TV, local stations would only have access to select in-market games.
Fox reportedly loses as much as $250 million a season on its Thursday night package. But Amazon has a $1.52 trillion market capitalization and is more interested in video for driving traffic to its e-commerce efforts than it is directly making a profit off of it.
The Amazon reports are just one of numerous ongoing multi-billion-dollar negotiations the NFL has with major incumbent media companies including ViacomCBS, Disney and Comcast-NBCUniversal. All of these current stakeholders will likely renew contracts to keep games on their linear networks into the next decade.
Still unclear, however, is the fate of out-of-market games package NFL Sunday Ticket, which appears to be moving off the only home its ever known, DirecTV, after the 2022 season.
“We continue to believe a vMVPD, such as YouTube TV or Hulu Live, makes the most sense for Sunday Ticket (maintaining the linear TV buy through a model that DirecTV has utilized for decades),” Greenfield wrote.
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