NFL’s ‘Thursday Night Football’ goes exclusive to Amazon Prime next year

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on the leagues passage of the new catch rule and on the new helmet to helmet rule. Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter

New deal for broadcast rights means games will be widely limited without subscription

Amazon Prime Video will begin televising “Thursday Night Football” exclusively in 2022 — a year sooner than expected — in an 11-year deal worth $1 billion per season, the National Football League announced Monday.

The games streamed exclusively on Amazon will only be available on regular cable television in the local markets of the two teams playing each other. Otherwise, one would need a Prime Video membership to view them.

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Seeing the Thursday night game regularly has already been an exercise in frustration for many NFL fans as disputes with television service providers and official broadcast rights to the games have switched hands from ESPN, to NBC and CBS, and to Fox and the NFL Network, where channel availability has been a major issue.

Thursday night games have also been controversial as some of the game’s most prominent players have voiced grievances that the contests only serve to create a shortened rest period between games, making athletes more susceptible to injuries.

In 2018, the NFL reached a long-term deal with Fox to hold the rights through 2022, and now Amazon becomes the first streaming service to be sold a package of NFL games exclusively.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has called the deal a historic moment for the league and the tech giant, with a price tag to prove it.

Amazon reportedly will pay $1 billion per season, a lot more than the average of $660 million a year that Fox had been paying for the broadcast, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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According to CNBC, Amazon is counting on the broadcast as a way to keep its customers hooked into Prime, the company’s subscription service that includes free shipping on many Amazon products.

A Prime Video membership costs $8.99 per month, but it’s also included with Amazon Prime which costs $12.99 per month or $119 a year, CNBC reported.

As of April, Amazon had more than 200 million global Prime subscribers.

Last month, Amazon became the first all-streaming provider to commit to carrying the weekly prime-time broadcast, which debuted in 2006 and features the first game of every new week throughout the NFL regular season.

Prime Video’s upcoming package will feature 15 Thursday night games and one preseason game each season.

Initially, the tech giant didn’t expect to begin streaming games until the 2023-24 season, but Fox — the current rights holder — agreed to vacate its existing deal a season early, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“We look forward to bringing Thursday Night Football exclusively to Prime members in 2022, a year earlier than previously announced,” said Marie Donoghue, vice president of global sports video at Amazon, in a statement. “This expedited deal is an immediate differentiator for us as a service, as it gives Prime members exclusive access to the most popular sport in the United States.”

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