Amazon is about to make its “Thursday Night Football” streaming debut, and it’s hoping to enhance the broadcast experience enough to keep viewers coming back.
The company will broadcast its first-ever NFL game on Thursday, between two early season Super Bowl favorites: the Los Angeles Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs. Pregame coverage is set to begin at 7 pm ET – as pointed out with a large banner and countdown clock on the main page of Amazon’s website. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:15pm ET.
It’s part of a deal between Amazon (AMZN) and the NFL announced in March last year, with the tech giant getting exclusive rights to the league’s “Thursday Night Football” games. The broadcasts were originally slated to begin in 2023 but were subsequently moved to the 2022 season.
Thursday’s game is the latest example of Amazon making big investments to be a streaming destination. It will likely mark the first time many viewers will tune into Amazon Prime Video rather than traditional cable or broadcast channels to watch a game. (Fans in the teams’ respective cities will still be able to watch the game on television.)
Amazon is adding several layers to the viewing experience to convince fans it’s the future of sports broadcast.
Viewers will get real-time access to what the NFL calls Next Gen Stats, which use machine learning to help predict metrics such as pass completion and rushing yards. Amazon said it will also incorporate its X-Ray feature, which provides viewers additional context about what’s on screen.
Amazon has also tapped broadcaster Charissa Thompson and former NFL players Richard Sherman, Tony Gonzalez and Ryan Fitzpatrick to host pregame, halftime and postgame analysis, as well as prominent announcer Al Michaels and longtime ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit to call the games.
Moreover, Amazon is partnering with ratings agency Nielsen to measure viewership of the games on Prime Video, a first for any streaming service.
One thing that’s staying the same, however, is the ball. A promotional video had shown NFL stars throwing around a new, differently shaped “Prime ball,” but the actual game ball will not change.