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NFL Thursday Night Digital Rights: Amazon, YouTube, Twitter, Verizon Again at Bidding Table

The usual tech suspects are looking to snag the NFL’s digital-streaming rights for “Thursday Night Football” for upcoming seasons, with Amazon, Google’s YouTube, Verizon and Twitter each on the short list of bidders, sources confirmed.

The NFL is looking to cut a streaming deal for as long as five years for the “TNF” digital rights, as first reported by Bloomberg. The league sees value in carving up the 11-game Thursday night set — in addition to the five-year Fox broadcast deal it struck last month — with a global digital distributor that can enhance the telecasts with social extensions and interactive overlays, to reach younger audiences.

Twitter, Amazon and YouTube have been in the “Thursday Night Football” bidding mix for the last several years. Verizon also is looking to nab global digital multiplatform rights to the Thursday games, as first reported by Recode; that comes after the telco inked a five-year pact for nonexclusive U.S. mobile rights to stream NFL regular- and post-season games.

Facebook, which has bid for NFL live games in the past, earlier dropped out of the latest cycle of “Thursday Night Football” negotiators.

Amazon won the “Thursday Night Football” digital derby last season, after Twitter had them a year earlier. Amazon’s Prime Video drew 18.4 million total viewers in 224 countries and territories for the NFL games. Amazon’s average-minute audience watching the NFL games for at least 30 seconds topped 310,000, 17% higher than Twitter’s results the season prior.

The talks for ancillary “TNF” digital rights continue after Fox reached a five-year deal last month with the league for the Thursday night package, under which it is said to be paying more than $650 million per year.

According to the NFL, Amazon’s Prime Video streaming in 2017 boosted overall consumption of “TNF” by about 2.5%. “In a world where people are trying to drive as much incremental consumption as possible, this is a small but growing asset for us,” NFL senior VP of digital media Vishal Shah said at an industry conference last fall.

The NFL, Amazon, YouTube, Twitter and Verizon declined to comment on the latest “TNF” bidding.

The jockeying for “Thursday Night Football” streaming rights is a microcosm of the larger incursion by technology companies into the sports-media world. Observers expect that within a few years, a major streaming platform will steal a bucket of premium rights from a TV broadcaster. That hasn’t happened yet, but digital players have been nibbling around the edges. Last month, YouTube TV struck a deal with Los Angeles Football Club for exclusive L.A.-area broadcast rights, a Major League Soccer expansion team that will begin competing in the 2018 season.

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