The NFL and Amazon inked a multi-year renewal of the Thursday Night Football exclusive live streaming deal but with an added wrinkle for 2018 and 2019: games will be aired on Amazon-owned Twitch for the first time ever.
According to Zack Sugarman — Senior Vice President of Properties at Wasserman — the new integration is “a massive deal.” As part of the extended global partnership, Amazon Prime Video will also live stream the 11 Thursday Night Football games broadcast by FOX.
“It really elevates what Amazon is going to be able to deliver back for fan engagement,” Sugarman said of the free live streams on Twitch. “Before, whether it was Amazon or Twitter, both of those were successful but with Twitch, it creates a different environment where there’s going to be a lot more real-time chats and fan engagement while watching football.”
The veteran media executive continued and said that Twitter — which reportedly paid $10 million for 10 TNF games in 2016 — tried fostering fan conversation during matchups with a curated timeline of commentary. As Sugarman described, though, the Twitch platform itself is built around communal engagement and chat while simultaneously being able to view a broadcast.
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Though last week’s announcement didn’t elaborate on what the Twitch environment would look like just yet, Sugarman said he’s “very intrigued” by what the digital experience will be for fans. There’s also the possibility and likelihood, at least generally speaking, of converting some traditional Twitch streamers into casual football fans. Through the platform, some gamers might also be introduced to the sport for the first time.
Sugarman also noted the timeliness of the Twitch offering given what’s transpired over the past six weeks with the technology platform. In mid-March, streamer Ninja set a Twitch concurrent viewership record as he played the popular video game Fortnite. Rapper Drake dropped in for a surprise appearance, too.
A week ago, the Vegas Golden Knights became the first NHL team to launch a dedicated Twitch channel. The NBA 2K League, which kicked off its inaugural season Tuesday, is currently live streaming all of its games via the digital platform.
In the future, whether short-term or even months down the road, Sugarman said he wouldn’t be surprised if some NFL clubs or other U.S. professional sports organizations direct more of their focus toward Twitch and allocate resources to develop creative content.
“Twitch is going to become a bigger player in the sports world, more than it’s ever been, and this deal is going to just reinforce it,” said Sugarman, adding that of the Thursday Night Football digital live streams to date, this one is the “most compelling.”
With Amazon paying $130 million for the next two seasons, per Reuters, it’s nearly a 30 percent annual increase from last year’s NFL streaming partnership, which included $30 million in free marketing.
In 2017, Amazon reached 18.4 million total viewers over 11 games, including a 17 percent uptick in average minute audience compared to Twitter.