January 15, 2020
Amazon Prime Video has streamed NFL Thursday Night Football for the past two seasons. Whether that groundbreaking deal is renewed remains up in the air, according to media reports.
Prime Video, unlike Netflix or Hulu, has embraced live sports recently signing exclusive rights to English Premier League soccer. The New York Yankees reportedly are in discussions with Amazon to become the first MLB team to stream games directly to viewers who don’t have a pay-TV subscription.
The NFL is concerned whether Amazon can handle the capacity required to stream games to millions of viewers simultaneously — an interesting concern considering ESPN’s challenges streaming the Clemson, LSU college football national championship game on Jan. 13.
“What Amazon’s doing over the next few weeks in the U.K. with their Premier League package will be very interesting to watch,” Brian Rolapp, EVP of media with the NFL, told a confab last month, as reported by Sports Business Daily. “They’re getting some pretty high ‘concurrents’ there.”
Rolapp said the NFL doubted any streaming service had the capacity to handle 25 million people simultaneously streaming a single game, much less in high-definition.
“It’s not just technical capacity the league is looking for. Production and promotion are just as important, he said. “In order to hold an NFL package, you’re … going to have to be able to distribute it at a high level of quality — no fan is going to accept less than HD, high-res all the time. You’re going to have to sell it from an advertising standpoint and market it. So we need to see that from any partner, and be satisfied with that before we entrust any game package to them.”
Regardless, it’s likely money will play as important consideration going forward. Both DAZN and YouTube TV have expressed interest in football, with the latter a sponsor and distributor of Major League Baseball post-season games and World Series.
DAZN, of course, inked an exclusive deal with Mexican fighter Canelo Alvarez worth a reported $365 million.
Rolapp told the confab the NFL remains primarily interested in reaching viewers and fans across multiple distribution channels.
“We will not sacrifice reach for something less valuable, including a higher rights fee,” he said. “We will maximize our reach. We think we can get both, but the reach is really important.”