In a Surprise, Amazon Grabs Streaming Rights for Next Season’s Thursday Night Football Games

The company shelled out $50 million, 5 times what Twitter paid

Amazon paid around $50 million to stream 10 Thursday night NFL games next season. - Credit by Getty Images
Headshot of Jason Lynch

The National Football League has picked its streaming partner for 10 Thursday Night Football games next season, but instead of re-upping with Twitter, which had the package last season, the league has made a deal with a surprising new partner: Amazon.

The one-year agreement, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, is for around $50 million, which is five times the $10 million fee that Twitter paid for the same package last season.

The 10 Thursday night games will be available to Amazon Prime members, who pay $99 a year for free two-day shipping and a host of other perks, including access to Amazon Prime videos and music. There are an estimated 63 million Prime members in the U.S. Twitter, Google and Facebook also bid on the package, according to the Journal.

“We’re focused on bringing our customers what they want to watch, Prime members want the NFL,” Jeff Blackburn, svp of business development at Amazon, told the Journal.

This isn’t the first time that Amazon and the NFL have teamed up on programming. Amazon also airs the documentary series All or Nothing, which follows an NFL team through the draft to the end of the football season. The first season spotlighted the Arizona Cardinals’ 2015 year; Season 2, which was just announced last week, will focus on the Los Angeles Rams’ 2016 season, as the team returned to L.A.

The Thursday Night Football TV package will continue to be split between CBS, NBC and the NFL Network, in the second year of a two-year deal for linear rights. CBS and NBC will each air five games.

Last season, anyone with internet access could view Twitter’s NFL livestream. Non-Prime viewers will be able to stream the Thursday games through Verizon Wireless, which has exclusive mobile streaming rights to all NFL games, and CBS, which streams NFL games to subscribers of its CBS All Access streaming service.

Last season, Twitter’s NFL livestreams averaged just 265,000 viewers per minute. The first Twitter game last season had an average digital audience of 243,000 viewers per minute, with each viewer watching for an average of 22 minutes. But the game averaged 15.4 million viewers on CBS and NFL Network—63 times the size of the Twitter audience.

In 2015 , Yahoo livestreamed a Buffalo Bills-Jacksonville Jaguars game from London, which was the first to be made available exclusively on an internet-based platform. It averaged 2.36 million viewers per minute, far below a traditional TV audience.

For Amazon, the deal helps the company expand into live sports programming, which it had been looking to break into for some time, while giving users more incentive to subscribe to Prime—and keeping its current subscribers happy.

There was no immediate word from Amazon on how the company will sell advertising during the games. Twitter had hoped to sell around $50 million in advertising during last season’s games, with 10 to 15 ad packages in total.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV/Media Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.