For the first time in history, the NFL said Thursday it agreed to license all of its Thursday Night Football games exclusively to a technology company, Amazon.
Why it matters: It’s a major milestone for streaming. “To-date, no streaming platform has made a substantial sports rights acquisition,” Rich Greenfield, partner at LightShed Ventures, wrote in an analyst note.
Details: Beginning in 2023, Amazon Prime Video will carry and produce the games for 10 years. It will shell out roughly $1 billion per year to the NFL, according to CNBC, totaling more $10 billion.
- The deal also expands traditional TV networks’ rights to air games across their digital channels. ViacomCBS, Fox, NBCUniversal and Disney/ESPN will have the ability to air some exclusive games across their streaming services, Paramount+, Tubi, Peacock and ESPN+.
Be smart: The NFL and Amazon first began experimenting with a distribution partnership in 2017, when they struck a deal to allow Amazon to stream Thursday Night Football games non-exclusively for the following season.
- At the time, Amazon reportedly paid around $50 million for distribution rights. Twitter, which had the rights the year prior, reportedly paid $10 million.
The big picture: The broader set of NFL games will continue to air on traditional TV networks for the foreseeable future, helping prop up the struggling Pay-TV industry for at least a few more years.
- NFL games are usually the most-watched type of content on traditional television. Analysts predict that without sports rights, and particularly NFL rights, the entire Pay-TV ecosystem would crumble.
Yes, but: There are still fewer people watching games on live TV, which presents an enormous challenge for the League.
- This year’s Super Bowl was watched by a total of 96.4 million viewers, its lowest audience in more than a decade.
- While the NFL has been experimenting with moving rights to digital platforms, there are sometimes latency and technical problems related to putting live sports on streaming platforms.
Go deeper: Pay TV’s bleak post-pandemic outlook
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