As the NFL and its legacy TV partners continue to work to carve out a new long-term rights package, the league’s streaming partner has quietly expanded its postseason stake.
In a new wrinkle that began making the rounds today during a virtual owners’ meeting, Amazon has picked up the streaming rights to one of the two new Wild Card Games that will debut in January 2021. Per terms of the agreement, Amazon Prime Video will share the first-round playoff game with ViacomCBS, which will broadcast the bonus offering on its network flagship CBS while the kids-centric cable channel Nickelodeon will carry a custom version designed to appeal to the footy-pajamas set.
An NFL source on Wednesday confirmed the Amazon deal, but did not provide further details on financial considerations.
While the non-exclusive postseason arrangement isn’t necessarily a bellwether of how the more comprehensive NFL rights deals will shake out, recent chatter suggests that at least one direct-to-consumer service may be looking to share the wealth (and the not-inconsiderable cost of entry) with Amazon. By the time the Seattle-based tech giant’s current deal runs its course at the end of the 2022 season, Amazon will have put in six full years as the league’s streaming partner.
Amazon expanded its NFL package in April, committing to three additional years of streaming Fox’s 11-game Thursday Night Football showcase. As part of that extension, Amazon landed the exclusive global rights to one late-season NFL game in each of the next three years. While the first standalone game has yet to be determined, Amazon is expected to be offered one of the four Saturday games set that were originally slated to air on NFL Network on Dec. 19 and Dec. 26.
These post-collegiate Saturday curiosities aren’t generally big TV draws, although sometimes the cable network lucks out with a particularly compelling matchup. For example, while last season’s early Texans-Bucs game kicked off while fans in the Pacific Time Zone were sleeping off their Friday night holiday revels (the game drew a modest-by-NFL-standards 5.32 million viewers and a 3.3 household rating), the subsequent Bills-Patriots showdown averaged 9.6 million viewers and a 5.5 rating.
Before Amazon jumped into the NFL distribution pool back in 2017, the league had kicked the tires on a 10-game starter package with Twitter. (At the time, CBS and NBC shared the broadcast rights to the Thursday night slate, with each network airing a truncated offering of five games.)
Over the course of Twitter’s one-and-done NFL deal, the social-media platform eked out an average-minute audience of 272,000 streaming viewers. By comparison, Amazon last week boasted an average-minute audience of 1.3 million with its non-linear Bucs-Bears feed.