NFL makes its official Amazon Prime debut tonight
For the past few years, the Fox Thursday night games have been simulcast by Amazon Prime. As of 2022, Amazon Prime is the exclusive home of Thursday Night Football, in addition to over-the-air channels in the two markets involved in a given game.
And while it doesn’t really begin until three weeks from tonight, when the Chiefs host the Chargers, the NFL officially debuts on Amazon Prime tonight, with the Texans hosting the 49ers in a Week Three preseason game.
The action kicks off from Houston at 8:15 p.m. ET, following the start of a Packers-Chiefs game on NFL Network at 8:00 p.m. ET.
With another game available on traditional TV, the numbers for the Amazon contest likely will be low -- far lower than they will be for a regular-season game. Even then, it’s unknown how many will tune in to watch. It’s still not clear whether the average football fan knows about the looming shift to streaming.
Amazon reportedly has told potential sponsors it expects 12.5 million viewers per game. Industry insiders believe the real number will be much lower. And the real numbers will be tracked by Nielsen. Presumably, the NFL and Amazon understand that it will take time to change habits.
That’s surely why the NFL has done it. Yes, the money is nice. (When isn’t it?) But the league is trying to get ahead of the technological curve. Traditional TV may not die, but it will diminish. That already is happening. The NFL knows this. The question becomes pegging the real ceiling for simultaneous viewing through a streaming service, over the long haul.
In the days of three TV channels, NFL games drew monstrous audiences. Pre-Internet, games like Bears-Dolphins in 1985 (39 million) and Giants-49er in 1990 (41 million) drew massive audiences. Now, the three-letter networks that televise prime-time games are happy to get 20 million average viewers.
What will be a victory for a streaming-only game? The experiment begins, as a practical matter, in three weeks. Tonight, the NFL and Amazon get their first glimpse of the coming post-TV reality.