Amazon lands exclusive NFL rights as the league opens floodgate for streaming with new US$110bn deal

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Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN) has landed exclusive rights to the NFL’s ‘Thursday Night Football’ marking the latest significant win as online streaming platforms continue to flex in big money auctions.

The deal builds on an existing partnership between Amazon and the NFL which saw streaming in parallel with separate broadcast rights held by Fox Sports.

Now, for the first time, the NFL has sold an exclusive “all-digital” rights package.

It comes as the NFL inked US$110bn worth of broadcast deals with its partners including ESPN and ABC (both owned by Disney), Fox Sports (spun-out by Disney), Comcast’s NBC network, and Viacom’s CBS.

The new deals run for up to ten years and they nearly double the NFL’s broadcast revenue, adding multiple online streaming possibilities.

CBS will alongside its linear television broadcast also stream its allocation of NFL games on its newly launched Paramount+ streaming platform.

ESPN, via its ESPN+ app, will exclusively stream one of the ‘International Series’ fixtures (normally played in London) and it will also ‘simulcast’ all of the ESPN and ABC coverage on the app too.

Fox also secured digital rights, for broadcast on its Tubi platform.

And NBC’s streaming platform Peacock will simulcast the TV games and carry ‘a select number’ of online exclusive games.

“These new media deals will provide our fans even greater access to the games they love,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

“We’re proud to grow our partnerships with the most innovative media companies in the market.”

It comes only a week after Disney struck a US$2.8bn broadcast deal with the National Hockey League (NHL) for TV and online streaming through to 2028.

It sees online coverage exclusively on the ESPN+ and Hulu apps (which along with Disney+ makes up the ‘Disney Bundle’ which has a subscription price of US$12.99 per month).

NBA & China

ESPN and AT&T’s Turner Sports signed-up the NBA rights in 2016 for nine years, running up until the end of the 2024-25 season, in a deal at the time said to be worth US$24bn.

More recently, the NBA inked a US$1.5bn a year deal with Chinese investment group Tencent for exclusive streaming rights in China.  The Tencent deal subsequently became politically charged, during Donald Trump’s presidency, due to Tencent ownership of Chinese tech businesses like WeChat – the scrutinised Chinese investor also owns influential stakes in ‘Hollywood’, iconic record labels and social media firms like Reddit and Snapchat.

Chinese NBA broadcasts have been temporarily halted in October 2020 following a tweet by a player which supported the anti-China protests in Hong Kong.

Europe and global rights

Meanwhile, in the UK, Amazon has previously had a relatively small allocation of Premier League football rights, but, secured more games during the pandemic as the league’s broadcast partners took up all the ‘behind closed doors’ fixtures.

Evidently, the sports broadcasting market is very much in transition albeit it appears that – with the exception of Amazon and Thursday Night Football – the ‘new’ model comprises the same spectrum of distributors sharing rights for broadcast in parallel with traditional TV.

DAZN, a start-up spun-out of Access Industries (which, among other things, invested in tech ‘unicorns’ like Spotify, Snapchat, Deezer and Square), alternatively built a portfolio of international broadcast rights – for example streaming European football into Japan, or NFL into Canada, and a UK-and-US crossover for boxing in partnership with Anthony Joshua’s promotors Matchroom Sports.

In Italy, meanwhile, it is a primary rights holder for the online and ‘linear TV’ broadcast of Seria A games.

More recently, DAZN consolidated the rights into a global-sports streaming app.

Curiously Netflix, the market leading streaming platform, has yet to dip its toe in the water.

Despite producing a plethora of sports-based documentary series – including ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’, ‘Sunderland ‘til I die’ and the popular ‘Last Chance U’ – the platform does not have any live sports assets.

The established TV networks meanwhile appear well positioned in the area given their long involvement broadcasting the major sports leagues.

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