Amazon CEO: Prime Video to Reinvent the NFL Viewing Experience

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy lauded the e-commerce behemoth’s Prime Video platform in his annual shareholder letter covering the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2021. The executive called out the streamer’s ongoing forays into live sports, including the September launch of “Thursday Night Football,” the NFL’s first weekly, prime time, streaming-only broadcast. Amazon paid $11 billion for exclusive rights to the signature NFL event for the next 11 years.

CEO Andy Jassy

“We will work relentlessly over the next several years to reinvent the NFL viewing experience for football fans,” Jassy wrote.

Indeed, Amazon upped its bid in order to secure the Thursday night rights a year early from Fox Sports. The streamer was originally set to assume the rights beginning in 2023.

“NFL games are the most watched live programming in the United States, and this unprecedented Thursday Night Football package gives tens of millions of new and existing Prime members exclusive access to must-watch live football on Prime Video,” Mike Hopkins, SVP of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, said in a statement last year.

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Jassy said Amazon’s approach to Thursday Night Football, which includes adding interactive features so streamers’ can personalize their experience, has resulted in other sports entities looking to work with Amazon.

“It’s also why so many large entertainment companies have become Prime Video Channels partners — enabling entertainment companies to leverage the [SVOD’s] technology and viewing experience,” Jassy wrote.

The executive said media companies such as Warner Bros. Discovery, Paramount Global, Starz, Corus Entertainment and Globo are driving “substantial incremental membership” and better customer experience by marketing their streaming services on Prime Video Channels.

“While there is so much progress in Prime Video from where we started [in 2006 as Amazon Unbox], we have more invention in front of us in the next 15 years than the last 15 — and our team is passionately committed to providing customers with the most expansive collection of compelling content anywhere in the world,” Jassy wrote.

Sony Pictures TV Chairman Mike Hopkins Joins Amazon Prime Video

Mike Hopkins, the former Hulu CEO who left to become chairman of Sony Pictures Television, is moving back to over-the-top video, becoming SVP at Prime Video and Amazon Studios. Hopkins begins on Feb. 24, reporting to founder Jeff Bezos.

Hopkins replaces Jeffrey Blackburn, who previously announced he was taking a one-year sabbatical in 2020. Jen Salke, head of Amazon Studios, reports to Hopkins.

Hopkins previously headed Hulu, before leaving to become chairman of Sony Pictures Television.

“I want to thank Mike for his outstanding leadership since arriving at the studio in late 2017. From day one he was charged with rethinking the way we run our television businesses,” Tony Vinciquerra, CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, wrote in a staff memo.

Blackburn, in a separate Amazon staff memo, said Hopkins has more than 20 years of industry experience at Fox, Hulu and Sony — including an extensive track record as a global business leader in media, film and TV — negotiating landmark content and distribution agreements, running marketing operations, leading product/tech teams, and overseeing production of television content.

Hopkins’ responsibilities at Sony will be split between Keith LeGoy, worldwide distribution president, and Jeff Frost, president of U.S. production.


Sony Crackle Merges with Chicken Soup for New AVOD Service

Sony Pictures Television March 28 announced it has merged its Sony Crackle AVOD service with Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment Inc., a media company producing content for all screens, to form a new AVOD joint venture branded, “Crackle Plus.”

Under the agreement, CSS Entertainment will own the majority interest in the joint venture. Additionally, SPT will receive 4 million five-year warrants to purchase Class A common stock of CSS Entertainment at various prices.

The addition of the Crackle assets is expected to more than double CSS Entertainment’s overall revenue and add meaningful pre-tax earnings.

Eric Berger, chief digital officer at Sony Pictures Television, will reportedly depart the company upon closure of the deal.

Eric Berger

Sony and Chicken Soup will each contribute certain assets with plans to combine their 10 million viewers and content expertise. SPT’s contributions feature Crackle’s U.S. assets, including the Crackle brand, monthly active users and ad rep business.

SPT and the joint venture will also enter into a license agreement for rights to TV series and movies from the Sony Pictures Entertainment library. In addition, New Media Services, a subsidiary of Sony Electronics Inc., will provide the technology back-end services for Crackle Plus.

Ownership of Crackle’s original content library will be retained by SPT but be made available for licensing to the joint venture. CSS Entertainment plans to include six owned and operated AVOD networks (Popcornflix, Truli, Popcornflix Kids, Popcornflix Comedy, Frightpix, and Espanolflix) and SVOD platform Pivotshare.

Crackle Plus is expected to have more than 38,500 hours of programming, 90 content partnerships; 1.3 billion minutes streamed per month, and an offering of more than 100 networks, both ad-supported and subscription-based, including networks owned by Crackle Plus and third-party networks distributed via Pivotshare.

“Crackle is a valuable asset and we feel confident it will thrive and grow in this new environment with CSS Entertainment,” said Mike Hopkins, chairman of SPT, in a statement. “We were drawn to CSS Entertainment as our partner in this venture because of its aggressive, entrepreneurial approach.

Sony Seeking Fiscal Partner for Crackle

Sony Pictures Entertainment reportedly is looking for a fiscal partner to help expand, the ad-supported streaming video service it acquired in 2006 for $65 million.

In an employee email first reported by Deadline, Mike Hopkins, former CEO of Hulu and now chairman of Sony Pictures Television, said that the right minority partner could help “drive scale and position [Crackle] to be more competitive.”

“Crackle is a tremendously valuable asset for us, and with premium [ad-supported VOD] getting more and more traction as advertisers seek high value online advertising opportunities, we feel there is room for greater growth for our OTT business,” Hopkins wrote. “With the right partner – one that could bring additional content or users or leverage existing assets for advertising and promotion – we feel we can expand Crackle’s audience and significantly increase revenue.”

The streaming platform is recent years has moved into original programming to better compete against Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Roku’s ad-supported channel, among others.

Original forays included “The Art of More,” and “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” featuring Jerry Seinfeld playing hooky with various celebrities, including then-President Barack Obama. The series has since been acquired by Netflix.

Crackle just announced it will begin streaming the second season of original series, “Snatch,” starring Harry Potter’s Rupert Grint, who is also an executive producer of the 10-episode drama.