Amazon nabs exclusive streaming rights to select NFL games in contract extension

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Amazon has carried NFL Thursday Night Football games on its Prime Video and Twitch platforms for the last few years, but an extension of that deal will give the company its first exclusive Saturday game this upcoming season.

One upcoming NFL game, set to be played on a Saturday in the second half of the regular NFL season, will stream exclusively on Amazon for a global audience over the next three years, with televised rights remaining in both teams’ local markets. That means if the game were between the New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings, local markets in New York and Minnesota would televise the game, but (almost) everyone else would have to use Amazon’s services. Verizon mobile customers can watch the game through the Yahoo Sports app, but that’s specifically for Verizon customers.

“We are thrilled to renew our Thursday Night Football deal with the NFL, and are excited to expand our relationship to include exclusive global streaming rights to an additional regular season game in 2020,” Marie Donoghue, vice president of global sports video at Amazon, said in a press release.

Amazon’s three-year extension with the NFL ensures that both its Prime Video and Twitch platforms will stream all 11 Thursday Night Football games broadcast by Fox. The NFL and Amazon originally partnered in 2017, and since then, it has become an area of focus for the company’s streaming video business.

In 2019, digital viewing of Thursday Night Football saw a 4 percent increase in viewership compared to the year prior, generating an average of 15.4 million viewers across digital networks, including Prime Video and Twitch. With the NFL gearing up for negotiations to its games with traditional network and broadcast partners, giving Amazon an exclusive Saturday game feels like both entities testing the waters. Hypothetically, could one of the largest tech giants bring in a sizable audience and stream a game without much disruption that would make the NFL feel more comfortable with exploring streaming as more than just a possible add-on to network games going forward?

It’s unclear, but the biggest question remains whether the 2020 NFL season will be impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic like other leagues have already. The league has already said it won’t open team facilities until stay-at-home orders in numerous states have been lifted. Even then, however, it’s unclear if people will want to venture out to packed stadiums to watch games or if they’ll be given the go-ahead by the time the season kicks off in the fall. The league is also prepared to move next year’s Super Bowl and delay the beginning of the season if push comes to shove, according to Sports Business Journal.

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