Next season will mark Amazon’s first as a full-time NFL rightsholding company. Amazon Prime will stream all Thursday Night Football games in what will be a very telling experiment about the viability of holding live sports only on streaming services. Football is really the only American sport popular enough to overcome most obstacles when it comes to streaming and Amazon has pockets deep enough to pull a solid audience. In theory, anyway.
Peter King dropped an interesting nugget in his weekly column for NBC about Amazon’s strong desire to stream a game on Black Friday. The Thanksgiving Day slate of games are all nationally televised so, as of now, Amazon is missing out on the biggest football day of the year outside the Super Bowl. But a Black Friday game exclusively on Amazon would allow them a piece of the pie, and they’re willing to pay top dollar to make it happen. Per King:
Amazon Prime has wanted a Black Friday game—a game on the Friday after Thanksgiving—as part of its schedule in 2022, or at the latest by 2023. This resolution gave the NFL the ability to take two more teams and make them play, in this case, on the Friday following a Sunday game.
All sounds great … except the deal’s not done yet. It’s not as easy as it seems. There’s some opposition in the league about playing a game on Nov. 25, and there’s a decent chance the NFL will put off a Black Friday game on Amazon Prime till 2023. But it’s going to happen, I’m told, by next year at the latest.
Amazon has made a huge bid for the game. I’m told it’s between $70 million and $100 million for a Black Friday game, which would be added to the current package. (That’s in the same neighborhood of what network partners have paid for wild-card playoff games recently.) Seems like a win-win.
It does indeed seem like a win-win. But King laid out several reasons why it wouldn’t work out. The two biggest are that the NFL cannot hold games on Friday or Saturday night before the end of the high school and college football seasons, respectively, and it will be tough to put together a good enough game to justify rocking the schedule boat in such a manner. There’s also quite a bit of opposition within the league offices that will make a deal tough to come by.
At the end of the day, though, money talks. If Amazon is willing to cut that large of a check, the NFL will make something work, even if it means having a 4 p.m. game on a Friday afternoon. The quality of the game is the biggest problem in theory. The league won’t save a good matchup for Friday that they can schedule on Thanksgiving Day. And because the game would have to be in the afternoon, Amazon would be making a big bet that there are enough people done with their Black Friday adventures to want to tune in.
Football, football, and more football. It’s a recipe that hasn’t failed yet. Amazon seems to be willing to test that theory to the max.