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Amazon can earn a wild-card game, based on regular-season viewership

Mike Florio and Myles Simmons break down the new NFL TV deals, which include Thursday Night Football moving to Amazon in 2023, and how this is a first look at digital streaming becoming the future of live sports.

Amazon has expanded its relationship with the NFL by adding Thursday Night Football. Amazon can further expand its relationship with the NFL by adding a wild-card playoff game.

Per a source with knowledge of the terms of the deal, Amazon can secure the rights to a wild-card playoff game based on viewership achieved by its Thursday night package, which becomes an official Amazon property in 2023.

In moving the Thursday games to Amazon, NFL is trading maximum viewership for maximum dollars. Surely, the total audience numbers generated by Amazon will be much lower than they would have been on FOX, NBC, CBS, or ABC. With none of the broadcast networks keen on paying the premium (both in rights fees and production costs) to buy a ratings win on multiple Thursday nights during football season, the Amazon alternative became obvious.

It’s also a prudent experiment for both the league and Amazon. By the next round of TV deals, Amazon may have the infrastructure and knowledge to make a bigger play -- and to automatically deliver a bigger audience.

The advertising value also is enhanced for Amazon, in comparison to traditional broadcast networks. Commercials during the game can be targeted to specific consumers. Ferrari, for example, would never buy ads for a FOX prime-time game, since 99 percent of the audience would never be thinking about buying a Ferrari. On Amazon, however, Ferrari can try to close the deal with people whose buying patterns and browsing habits suggest that a nudge would be useful.

Amazon also could (and likely will) use commercials that allow the viewer to instantly order items that the viewer has bought in the past through Amazon Prime, like shaving cream.

The fact that the NFL has given Amazon a path to a playoff game based on viewership shows that the league is aware of the possibility that not enough people will actually see the games. This wrinkle gives Amazon extra incentive to aggressively market the Thursday night product through all available media.