SBJ Media: Amazon is off to a strong start

The ManningCast will have Jimmy Johnson, Pat McAfee and Tracy Morgan for tonight’s Cowboys-Giants game. Looks like I’ll be on ESPN2 all night.

It’s hard to write anything negative about the start of Amazon’s exclusive “Thursday Night Football” program. Jay Marine couldn’t have scripted a better debut. But the company still has some questions about streaming viewership that haven’t been answered yet.

The viewership figures for the first two weeks brought unqualified good news to Amazon. So far, his NFL following has been much larger and much younger than expected. Amazon executives are thrilled. NFL leaders are thrilled. But several red flags worth watching are looming on the horizon.

My mainstream media sources are studying Amazon’s upcoming “TNF” schedule, which came out with two high-quality games. Could Amazon’s Chargers-Chiefs opener, which drew 13 million viewers, be its high point? No one knows, of course, but it’s a scenario the company is monitoring.

It’s not just about the quality of NFL games left on Amazon’s schedule. It’s about the quality of sports offered by other networks. Starting with the Commanders-Bears game in Week 6, “TNF” will face the MLB playoffs. The NHL season begins in early October. The NBA starts in the middle of the month.

Then there is the linear TV component. Nearly 20% of Amazon’s Chargers-Chiefs viewership came from traditional television sources — local broadcasters and DirecTV’s business operations. The local number breakdown for Steelers-Browns is due out tomorrow.

That number matters because one of the main reasons this “TNF” games package is so exciting is because the company wants to see how many viewers are willing to migrate from linear TV to streaming. Throughout the season, sources will focus on the percentage of audiences watching “TNF” via traditional linear television.

Despite those red flags, Amazon couldn’t have predicted a better start. Last week’s Steelers-Browns game drew 11.03 million viewers, down from the Chargers-Chiefs opener which saw 13 million, according to Nielsen figures. Prior to its first game, several media analysts estimated Amazon’s viewership at around 8 million.

Additionally, Amazon’s viewership is six years younger than linear TV this season (46 versus 52), and Amazon’s ratings are so far 7% higher in the demo for adults from 18 to 34 years old. Many industry executives suspected the streaming audience would be younger, but now we have numbers to back that up.

I appeared on Matthew Belloni’s excellent “The Town” podcast this week to discuss the start of Amazon’s season.

Amazon saw 11 new advertisers join Steelers-Browns, including AT&T, which bought two 30-second spots, per source. Even with the presence of new advertisers, Amazon’s ad breakdown was similar to the previous week.

Last week, Amazon Prime Video had around 10 ads — both 30 and 15 — compared to 16 for its opener Chargers-Chiefs. Amazon Web Services had four 30-second ads during Steelers-Browns, the same number as the previous week.

Again, Amazon did not run any beer ads. The company has a rule that prohibits ads promoting beer, wine and spirits in the United States, Gerry Smith reported.

The automotive category again proved weak for Game 2, with only Mercedes-Benz and a new GMC advertiser buying ads. Insurance was also underrepresented during the game, with Aflac, Progressive, State Farm and Allstate gaining time.

Other notable advertisers include DraftKings, which bought seven 30-second spots, and FanDuel, which brought in two 30-seconds. The consumer packaged goods category welcomed six new advertisers (Milk Bone, Head & Shoulders, Dr Squatch, Red Bull, Gillette and Bose).

NFL Sunday Ticket negotiations seem to generate at least one story per week. My sources say any deal is still months away.

My pal Tripp Mickle wrote last week that the NFL “the most extensive negotiations have been with Apple.” He also wrote that the NFL has “signaled its frustration with Apple by reaching out to representatives of other media companies to encourage them to bid. … But some of those companies have been reluctant to become a tool that the NFL can use to induce a larger offer from Apple.

No one I know seems to admit to watching the Pro Bowl. But the TV numbers produced year after year by the NFL All-Star Game make every sports league jealous.

The game has consistently garnered over 7 million viewers, which would make it a hit show by any definition. I have no doubt that the competition produced by Omaha Productions that will replace the game will continue to generate significant audiences.

2022 ABC/ESPN/Disney XD 6,686
2021 ABC/ESPN 1,842*
2020 ABC/ESPN/Disney XD 8,075
2019 ABC/ESPN/Disney XD 8,225
2018 ABC/ESPN 8,553
2017 ESPN 7,449
2016 ESPN 7,987
2015 ESPN 8,770
2014 NBC 11,378
2013 NBC 12,156
NOTE: * = Game canceled in favor of the Madden video game event during COVID-19.
  • Sports counterprogramming for “TNF” now that it’s on Amazon? Fox drew the best regular-season MLB audience this season on Thursday night, with the Red Sox-Yankees in most markets, notes SBJ’s Austin Karp. Meanwhile, ESPN with West Virginia-Virginia Tech drew its second-best non-Week 1 Thursday night college football game since Thanksgiving 2017.
  • Brett Favre’s SiriusXM show “has been suspended following his involvement in a Mississippi welfare fraud scandal.” notes The Hollywood Reporter. The news follows ESPN Milwaukee’s decision to “suspend its weekly Packers recap program.”
  • The Premier League have been ‘approached’ by UK-based Box to Box Films, the company behind Netflix’s ‘Formula 1: Drive To Survive’, to ‘offer a series on the elite-focused streaming platform English football”. reports the London Times. The clubs were “informed of the move this week and discussions will now take place to sound out a potential project”. It is “understood that Box To Box has also been in contact with individual Premier League clubs”.
  • Despite the college football showdown, Saturday’s Red Sox-Yankees game on YES Network averaged 562,000 viewers in the New York market. It’s the 38th game to reach the top 400,000 on YES this season (only nine in 2021), notes SBJ’s Karp, and the fourth game to top 500,000 viewers (only Opening Day has reached that milestone in 2021).
  • Fox pulled in 2.54 million viewers for “Friday Night SmackDown” last week, the show’s highest viewership since Christmas Day in 2020 (3.31 million).

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