Amazon Prime Video is tacking on an extra NFL game in 2023, serving as the exclusive streaming home of a newly scheduled match the Friday after Thanksgiving next year.
The league on Tuesday announced Amazon as the streamer for the November 24, 2023, game. The NFL hasn't released the 2023 schedule yet, so participating teams are yet-to-be announced.
"Thanksgiving is synonymous with football and we're excited to give our fans another day of NFL action during this holiday weekend," said Hans Schroeder, chief operating officer for NFL Media. "Amazon is uniquely positioned to partner with us for this game as Black Friday is one of the most important days of the year for their business."
Amazon this year started as the streaming home for the NFL’s Thursday Night Football as part of a multi-year deal that runs through 2033, driving big viewership as well as Prime membership signups. The package averages over $1.2 billion per season and according to the Associated Press, Amazon will pay between $50 million and $70 million for the one extra Black Friday game.
In its first five games on Prime Video, Thursday Night Football is averaging 10.8 million viewers according to Nielsen Media Research. That’s up 48% from the first five Thursday night games in 2021 among the 18-34 demographic and up 25% for adults 18-49.
“Thursday Night Football has already proven tremendously successful on Prime Video, delivering millions of viewers every week, and we're excited to expand our relationship with the NFL with the inaugural Black Friday game, starting next year," said Jay Marine, Global Head of Sports, Prime Video, in a statement. "Black Friday is the unofficial start of the holiday season, and we're thrilled to kick it off with a gift for football fans across the country with this new game."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell indicated that more games could be in the future, noting there’s no commitment beyond 2023 but that the NFL typically doesn’t “do things for one year.”
"I would call that entire weekend a football weekend," Goodell said of Thanksgiving weekend. "We think there's room for the NFL on Friday. We're excited by it, we think it's gonna be a great thing and we'll announce plans as we go."
Marketers, advertisers weigh in on TNF opportunity
The league announced a new game with Amazon Prime at the same time Advertising Week in New York is taking place, where a Wednesday panel zeroed in on the live sports opportunity, specifically with the NFL and Amazon Prime.
Michael Smith, news analyst for Thursday Night Football, is involved in the pre-game and post-game shows, and noted during the session that the team has been making television fun while attracting a younger audience that’s watching longer.
“The smart thing is we’re meeting people where they are, we’re meeting a younger audience where they already are. Instead of trying to solicit a younger audience and attract a younger audience, we’re going where they are which is their devices, which is the internet, which is digital,” Smith said. “And the proof is in the pudding.”
Marketers and advertisers, including Optimum Sports (Omnicom Media Group’s in-house sports marketing agency) and Mercedes-Benz USA also weighed in.
Jeremy Carey, chief investment officer for Optimum Sports, said the agency has been bullish on the property since the get-go. And that it wasn’t just about the audience and how it was measured, but extending the reach and scale that could be offered on a subscription-based SVOD service.
“For us it was just, it was incredible,” he said, adding they knew the audience would come. For Optimum Sports, its approach to streaming is not that much different than traditional platforms, according to Carey.
“In this world where the commercial is losing value, we want to better understand how we can create value outside of the commercial space,” he said. That approach or “marketing outside the pod” is unique in this space, Carey added because there aren’t “the constraints that exist in the linear environment” in terms of what can be done around the actual live airing.
“There’s so much white space when you think about…what the potential is in the future for this,” he continued.
He also commented on the viewership figures for the 18-49 demographic, suggesting some concerns that older viewers wouldn’t know where to find games didn’t materialize.
“The 18-49 numbers are fantastic,” he said. And as marketers that “segment is so desirable for us, and it really just overdelivered in that space” while also doing extremely well on an income qualifier basis. Two things Optimum Sports looks at when trying reach and approach significant audiences.
Scale married with scale
Amazon’s TNF broadcast is also helping to drive incremental reach for marketers.
What scares marketers in live sports is how much consumption by younger viewers is happening on digital and social, according to Carey. To get some of that back some of that audience “is extremely attractive for us,” he said, with TNF on Amazon Prime demonstrating that. However, he sees a lot more that can be done, with NFL’s popularity coupled with Amazon’s massive e-commerce platform.
“So you’ve got scale married with scale,” Carey commented, noting content comes first but now it’s NFL content that’s in an environment that is that much closer to a point of transaction where data can come back “and give us the attribution models we’re looking for.”
Monique Harrison, head of Brand Marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA, said she can remember working on launching the first NFL app 10 years ago and being happy that people watched a game for 8 minutes.
For advertisers like Mercedes, which came on as the first half-time sponsor for Amazon’s TNF stream, she said they’re happy to see people sit and watch for 90 minutes and engage in new ways – but the brand is more excited to find out what it can do outside of the game.
“The retargeting and the data and the measurement that we can get through a partner like Amazon, just simply does not exist on linear,” Harrison noted.
And the NFL partnering with Amazon for the next 10 seasons sheds light on where the future is going, she added.
“That’s the advantageous part for a marketer – getting in now and growing with you [Amazon] through those platforms so we can start to develop exactly what that looks like and how we’re drawing new customers in through the outside of the pod opportunities,” she said.
Insights from first-party data from Amazon also become a more important factor. That comes into play for Mercedes, for example, as the automaker is transitioning from typical gas vehicles to electric – with Harrison saying it’s still somewhat of a guessing game as to who’s ready for that.
Through Amazon-provided data, the brand can get information on who’s watching the game, what they’re buying, and their profile.
“We can then take that information and target exactly the right customer at exactly the right time. We can’t necessarily do that in more traditional forms of advertising with the NFL,” Harrison said. “So this one was a huge advantage to us to be able to pull some of that data forward and be able to use it in short order so that we can capitalize on that consumer.”
As for asks for Amazon Prime and Thursday Night Football – Carey said the streaming relationship sets a precedent across the industry, giving more opportunities across the board.
“I want to be able to own a content position, or own a position in the game, and within that position I want to be able to – it’s large enough from a scale standpoint to create segments within my ownership position and target them uniquely,” Carey said.
For Harrison's ask, she had three words: “add to cart.”
“For us e-commerce is really big, it’s where we’re all going to be watching games in the future,” Harrison said. “I want to shop and watch.”
Smith meanwhile asked for more – more rights and more games.
As for the new 2023 Black Friday game announcement, Smith said “if that’s not the best indicator of how happy and over the moon everybody is when it comes to the success.…I don’t know what else is.”