NFL debut rating on Amazon Prime is a good sign for streaming

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The NFL moved its games to streaming, and fans followed.

Nielsen reported that the NFL’s first game available exclusively for streaming on Amazon Prime — last Thursday’s contest between the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs — averaged 13 million viewers.

The number surpassed the 12.5 million viewers that Amazon promised advertisers and signaled both the popularity of the NFL and the viability of a streaming-only TV show to large audiences.

Of the 13 million viewers, nearly 12 million watched the game on Amazon Prime, while the rest watched it on TV, available in Los Angeles and Kansas City.

Amazon said its internal measurement system pegged the average viewership at 15.3 million viewers.

The NFL hopes Amazon can help it reach younger viewers, and early feedback has been positive. Amazon said the Chargers-Chiefs was the highest-rated NFL game this season among adults ages 18-34, nearly 20% higher than the average NFL broadcast.

With ‘Thursday Night Football’ on Amazon Prime, the NFL bets on streaming

The e-commerce giant is paying more than $1 billion for the exclusive TV rights to ‘Thursday Night Football’ this season, believing live sports can help add value to its Prime subscription, which was initially designed to offer free shipping to customers. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Amazon’s head of global sports Jay Marine wrote a memo to employees after the game saying the company added more Prime signups during the three-hour window of last week’s game than during any other. three-hour window in service history. (Amazon Prime has some 200 million subscribers worldwide.)

Amazon offers an exclusive package of Premier League games in the UK and has seen a similar phenomenon. Prime’s two biggest sign-up days coincided with their football shows.

During last week’s game, Amazon had hundreds of customer service representatives available to resolve phone calls from fans who couldn’t find the game. There were no widespread issues with the broadcast or its logistics, though some anecdotal data on social media suggests that some fans faced buffering issues in the second half.

Certainly the showpiece of the game, featuring two of the league’s top teams and star quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, helped Amazon’s ratings. The Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers play Thursday nights this week, and viewership figures will again be closely watched.

And despite Amazon’s early success, linear TV executives were quick to point out that TV always delivers more viewers. Mike Mulvihill of Fox Sports noted that last year’s Chargers-Chiefs Thursday Night Game on Fox drew more than 18 million viewers. The NFL’s Thursday opener on NBC this season between the Los Angeles Rams and the Buffalo Bills drew more than 21 million viewers across television and digital platforms.

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