While the NFL is lauded as a sport that is always adapting and rising with the tides of technology and progress, there has been a surprisingly slow evolution in how football can be viewed by streaming audiences. Past efforts have been dwarfed by the news that the NFL has entered into a contract with top-tier streaming service Amazon Prime to stream games during the 2017-2018 season.
We might have to wait a few years to see moves made to bring a larger selection of games for streaming purposes, but the current deal is set up so that Amazon will host ten Thursday Night Football games next season, bringing the total number of ways to watch those weekly contests to four. (NBC, CBS, NFL Network and now Amazon.) Of course, unlike linear TV where you can just pop a channel on and watch to your heart's content, Amazon will require a subscription to Prime to watch its football-flavored content.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Amazon beat out quite a few other online companies who were also interested in landing the Thursday Night Football deal, including Google, Facebook and Twitter. The deal apparently set the mega-corporation back around $50 million, averaging about to about $5 million a game, which is definitely pricey, but just a drop in the bucket for Amazon. (To the NFL too, for that matter.) And if this ends up bringing millions more customers to the service, as well as making NFL streaming a verifiable win, then there's no way $50 million isn't beyond worth it.
Interestingly, Twitter was one of the first companies to make a big streaming deal, but it was only for two games and was more of a prototype process than something indicative of the NFL's future online. It would be interesting that the League is so set on letting Thursday Night Football being the guinea pig in this situation, but it's widely known that the telecast is one of the reasons why everybody railed on the NFL's ratings last season, since an abundance of dull gridiron contests had primetime audiences tuning into Big Bang Theory and other non-football programming of the evening. I can't imagine that Amazon's audiences will immediately make a significant difference to the viewership averages, but part of the point is to be successful enough to take on more games next year.
CBS, which has been a Sunday NFL staple network for ages, has plans to bring streaming games to its standalone service CBS All Access, but it's not clear how that will go down yet. As well, Yahoo got in the mix for a one-and-done airing in the past, and the NFL's games played in different countries have provided opps for other outlets to step in.
Amazon is making strides to separate itself from its biggest competitor in the streaming space, Netflix, which has expressed little interest in getting into streaming live TV or sports programming. But now that Netflix has gotten into reality shows not so long after denying interest in the genre, it wouldn't be out of the question for Amazon's success to inspire it and others to justify shifting finances over to the NFL. Though nobody will be able to sell related products on the same webpage the game is playing like Amazon can.