Amazon Prime Video will kick off its exclusive NFL Thursday Night Football package on September 15 when the Los Angeles Chargers meet the Kansas City Chiefs. The regular-season schedule highlights the streaming service's growing lineup of live sports programming.
But TNF, which premiered on August 25 with an exclusive Houston Texans-San Francisco 49ers preseason game, is just part of a mix of live sports events the streaming service hopes to use to lure in fans. The Prime Video lineup also includes regular-season WNBA basketball games, mixed martial arts events from One Championship and exclusive in-market New York Yankees baseball games and Seattle Storm WNBA games.
Amazon VP of global sports video Marie Donoghue recently spoke to Multichannel News about Prime Video’s live sports aspirations and what the genre adds to the overall value of the streaming service. Here’s an edited transcript of that discussion.
MCN: How do you see live sports programming fitting into the overall value proposition for Prime Video?
Marie Donoghue: As you know, Prime is a membership benefit, and so live marquee sports is what we call a headline benefit. We have the NFL — probably the most popular sport in the U.S. — with our Thursday Night Football deal, which we’re really, really excited to launch this season with our first game on September 15. It’s a massive investment for us and we've based it on our track record working with the NFL over the last several years, as well as the experience we've had in Europe. We've been showing top-tier sports for several years with the Premier League in the U.K. and the Champions League in Italy and Germany, Ligue 1 in France and the U.S. Open tennis tournament in the U.K. We know for sure that top marquee sports programming really resonates with our customers, so it's become an essential part of our service in several countries.
MCN: What drew Prime Video to the WNBA and how has it performed for the streaming service?
MD: We’re huge fans of the WNBA, and overall we saw increased viewership this season for the WNBA. Last year they were developing the Commissioner’s Cup (the WNBA's mid-season tournament), so we thought it would be an awesome opportunity to serve our fans. I think fans really liked it because you get to see the top teams compete.
MCN: Along with the NFL and WNBA, Prime Video has also streamed live local games for such teams as the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees and MLS’s Seattle Sounders FC. Is that a strategy that you will look to continue with other teams in other sports?
MD: Yes, we look at everything. We always consider whether there is a way for us to improve the experience, the accessibility and the value for fans. We found with the Sounders, the Yankees and the Storm that that was all true. We were able to reach an audience that isn't reached by the traditional pay TV bundle, and we've also been able to provide great value to our subscribers — you get the games with your Prime membership.
MCN: Prime Video has also stepped into the combat-sports ring with One Championship. Does that franchise offer a different sports appeal to Prime Video subscribers than the WNBA or NFL fotball?
MD: One Championship is the world’s largest martial arts organization, and we’re bringing them live in primetime to the U.S. and Canada exclusively. They are primarily based out of Singapore, but next year we’ll have some events from the US. Those fans are incredibly passionate and engaged and the One Championship organization is fairly unique, and I’m particularly pleased that they treat female athletes equally. We’re really excited about working with them. ■
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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.