Amazon’s live-streaming kickoff of NFL “Thursday Night Football” beat Twitter’s numbers from 2016 in terms of average audience size and time spent viewing — but not in total viewers who caught some portion of the game.
For the Sept. 28 meeting of the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, Amazon reached 1.6 million worldwide viewers who initiated a stream on Amazon Prime Video, according to the NFL. The average worldwide audience watching “Thursday Night Football” for at least 30 seconds on Amazon Prime Video was 372,000, with each viewer watching an average of 55 minutes.
As expected, Amazon’s draw was only a fraction of the total audience for “Thursday Night Football,” the vast proportion of which came from TV. Prime Video viewers represented just 2.5% of the total.
A year ago, Twitter drew an average-minute audience of 243,000 for its inaugural “Thursday Night Football” live stream of the New York Jets-Buffalo Bills matchup, with 2.1 million unique viewers worldwide (who watched for at least 3 seconds). Across all 10 “TNF” games Twitter streamed last season, it averaged 265,800 viewers and 2.7 million uniques.
The game — featuring a classic NFL rivalry that didn’t live up to the hype — was broadcast on CBS, whose feed was also carried on NFL Network alongside Amazon’s stream.
Across all platforms, the Bears-Packers game pulled in an average-minute of 15.1 million viewers (down 4% from 15.7 million for the Jets-Bills “TNF” game last year). This year those included the CBS Television Network, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video, NFL Digital and CBS digital platforms. Including the pregame show, Amazon reached 1.9 million combined viewers for the “TNF” stream.
CBS’s Bears-Packers broadcast delivered a 9.9 overnight household rating, down 7% over the network’s first “TNF” game last year.
The game wasn’t much of a contest, as Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers and the Packers stoutly defeated the hapless Bears, 35-14. Also potentially turning off viewers was a 47-minute game delay at the end of the first quarter because of lightning storms in the Green Bay area.
Amazon streamed the “Thursday Night Football” game to Prime and Amazon Video customers in 187 countries worldwide, though the company anticipated most viewing to be in the U.S. Analysts estimate Amazon has 54 million Prime members in the U.S.
It’s been widely reported that Amazon is paying $50 million for the “TNF” package, but sources familiar with the deal peg the actual rights fee as much lower. Whether Amazon’s first NFL outing met expectations for the league or the e-tailer is unclear, but the lack of drama in the Packers’ win surely put a damper on things. Still, as Amazon pointed out, Prime Video members on average spent 2.5 times more time watching the game than Twitter users did in the social network’s 2016 debut.
Amazon carried CBS’s feed of the game and had rights to sell a portion of the ad inventory for the Prime Video live-stream (while it included most of the national ads in the CBS telecast). Advertisers in the Amazon broadcast included Showtime, Pepsi, Under Armour and Gillette.
According to Amazon, nearly 30% of Prime members outside the U.S. who tuned in listened to one of the alternative language audio feeds – U.K. English, Brazilian Portuguese, or Spanish. Outside of the United States, Mexico had the most “TNF” streams followed by Germany. On a per-capita basis, Prime members in Wisconsin streamed more hours of the live-stream than those in Illinois, Amazon said.
The first two “TNF” games this season — which were carried only on NFL Network nationally — averaged 7.8 million viewers, up 28% versus 2016’s average across the four “Thursday Night Football” games on NFL Network only (6.1 million viewers).
The NFL over the past week has been in the crosshairs of President Donald Trump, who has attacked the NFL and players kneeling in protest during the national anthem. The president called for a fan boycott until the league cracks down, but it’s not clear how the fracas has affected viewership. Trump tweeted that the league’s ratings are “way down” but in fact, ratings for Week 3 of the NFL season were up 3% vs. last year perhaps in part because of the controversy.
Amazon also has been a bête noire for Trump. The president has accused the ecommerce giant of not paying taxes (a claim that isn’t true). The source of Trump’s ire seems to be that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos now owns the Washington Post, which has been critical of the president and his administration.
This season, Amazon Prime Video will stream 11 games, including 10 “Thursday Night Football” games broadcast by CBS and NBC (who have five each), as well as NBC’s Christmas Day broadcast of the Pittsburgh at Houston. Those will also be carried on NFL Network, in the league’s “tri-cast” model.
Pictured above: Green Bay Packers’ Quinten Rollins stops Chicago Bears’ Benny Cunningham during the Sept. 28 “Thursday Night Football” game at Lambeau Field.