‘Thursday Night Football’ Passes Its First Test on Prime Video
Amazon paid a billion dollars to land a slot in the lucrative NFL broadcasting lineup, so it was understandable when the company’s first Prime Video streaming broadcast of Thursday Night Football was put under a microscope, especially since the broadcast was exclusive.
So how did Amazon fare? Most of the reviews were positive, but there were some glitches and issues as well. One plus was that Prime Video’s “TNF” debuted with a great marquee game, a 27-24 Kansas City victory over the Los Angeles Chargers that featured a rousing Chiefs comeback and a possibly devastating injury to Chargers’ star quarterback Justin Herbert.
Another positive was the overall quality of the video, which was generally considered good to excellent. Albert Breer of SI.com summed up many of the reactions with his first-quarter tweet:
Now the upside of the Amazon broadcast: The picture quality, at least on my TV, is freaking incredible.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 16, 2022
Hardcore fans also loved Amazon’s Prime Vision, which offers 22 cameras to give dozens of different angles on the action. Multiple cameras generally get underutilized on network broadcasts, but Amazon provided viewers with the same “all-22” overhead views that players and coaches use to break down and analyze formations and strategies.
Enjoying the all-22 camera angles, player ID tags, and stats/info on the Amazon feed.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) September 16, 2022
Nice features to have live during a game. pic.twitter.com/Wiz0N3zKfe
The acoustics weren’t as well received, however. Crowd noise from a full-throated fan base is always one of the highlights of any game broadcast from Arrowhead Stadium, long considered one of the best environments in the league. However, some users felt that the sound made the broadcast seem dead because it felt like the fan noise was an add-on compared to normal network broadcasts.
Amazon needs to work on the crowd audio. Arrowhead’s one of the loudest places in the league but it sounds like the fans are a half-mile away.— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) September 16, 2022
Some viewers criticized Amazon’s approach to the ad part of the broadcast as well. Not surprisingly, there were plenty of ads for Prime Video, along with prominent Amazon products like Ring and Amazon Web Service (AWS). Could an ad-free broadcast experience based on a small surcharge be on the Amazon horizon? Given the price tag for the NFL package, that seems unlikely. Prime Video has a captive audience for the game, which means it may be able to charge a premium for its ad slots, especially since flipping between channels during commercial breaks is much harder to do when a game is on streaming than when it is on a linear channel.
The announcers elicited some praise and criticism as well. Amazon paid out unprecedented salaries to land the likes of Al Michaels, who was at his legendary best, although ESPN college football alum Kirk Herbstreit was chided by some viewers for his rather basic approach to the NFL game.
Hearing Kirk Herbstreit on an NFL game is strange, like when your gym teacher had to sub in English class— Terence Malangone (@SpikeMal) September 16, 2022
Not to be lost in this thrilling game, but Kirk Herbstreit is really, really good at this. Especially when you consider the schedule he has to keep in-season. Impressive call/performance.— Matt Lombardo (@MattLombardoNFL) September 16, 2022
Some rather sharp generational differences also surfaced. Older viewers had some issues finding the Prime Video broadcast, and Kevin Seifert of ESPN summed up this experience with a pungent in-game tweet:
Raise your hand if your dad has called because he “can’t get get the game to work.” 🙋♂️— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) September 16, 2022
Another hiccup is that the internet-only broadcast opens itself up to technological issues out of Amazon’s control. Problems with internet connections or streaming device derailed some fans, while others enjoyed a crystal clear broadcast without issues. With any streaming product, the speed and connectivity of an individual’s internet connection will go a long way to determining the quality of the broadcast.
For some viewers, the Prime Video broadcast seemed tailored to the highest quality internet bandwidth, leaving those with less stable connections struggling to keep up with the action. These types of technological issues also make it difficult to be a part of the shared experience that watching live sports in the social media era has become. Due to inherent latency, streaming viewers will always be behind those watching on linear channels in local markets. However, depending on internet speed and connection, viewers will always be five to 30 seconds behind others watching the same game, making following the game on Twitter via a second stream very difficult.
Fortunately, Amazon has 14 games remaining to iron out the small issues with “TNF.” The next game features a heated rivalry as the Pittsburgh Steelers battle the Cleveland Browns, so there will undoubtedly be plenty of attention on the matchup.