Amazon kicks off NFL Thursday streaming deal a year early

Amazon Prime Video will become the exclusive home for NFL Thursday Night Football in 2022, a year earlier than the companies originally agreed upon.

It means that the 2021 season will be the last for Thursday Night Football on Fox, though the broadcaster will continue to produce the NFC Sunday afternoon games.

“The decision to accelerate the launch of TNF on Amazon for the 2022 season creates incremental economic and strategic value for the League and our fans,” the NFL told team owners, according to a memo obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

“This expedited deal is an immediate differentiator for us as a service, as it gives Prime members exclusive access to the most popular sport in the United States,” Marie Donoghue, Amazon’s vice president of global sports video, told the publication.

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Last month, Amazon Prime Video announced that it would be the only place to watch Thursday Night Football in what the NFL called its first all-digital package. The agreement runs through 2033.

The deal has the potential to reach large streaming audiences. Amazon recently announced that it has more than 200 million Prime members globally and that it saw more than 175 million Prime members stream shows and movies in the past year.

Amazon is reportedly paying $1 billion per year for its agreement with the NFL, another contributing factor to the company’s rapidly growing content budget. Amazon revealed earlier this month that it spent $11 billion on streaming video and music content in 2020, up from $7.8 billion in 2019. According to CNBC, that money goes toward licensing and production costs along with costs associated with digital subscriptions and sold or rented content.

That huge investment in content appears to be paying off for Amazon in terms of engagement and prestige. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said streaming hours are up more than 70% year over year before going on to tout Amazon Studios’ recent Academy Award nominations and two wins.