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Report: Prime Video Losing Viewers For ‘Thursday Night Football’; Will Other Streamers Hesitate to Embrace Live Sports?

David Satin

The NFL is headed into the 10th week of its season, and the contenders are starting to separate from the pretenders. That is not only true on the field, but in the TV ratings as well. A report from the Wall Street Journal suggests that the ratings for recent “Thursday Night Football” games on Prime Video are lower than the streamer — or the league — would ideally like.

The report states that Nielsen, the television ratings tracker that Amazon hired to help track viewership of “TNF” broadcasts, currently puts the average rating per game at 10.1 million viewers. Amazon’s figure puts the figure slightly higher at 11.8 million, but that total includes both Prime Video’s internal numbers and Nielsen’s measurement of the local TV viewership in the markets of the two teams playing in each game. The data confirmed once again that young people were streaming at a higher rate, while older viewers were less likely to continually tune into “TNF” on Prime Video.

The discrepancies in the numbers are raising some eyebrows around the media landscape. When advertisers are determining whether their benchmarks have been met by the Prime Video broadcasts, they’ll be using Nielsen’s numbers, not Amazon’s.

The figures from both sources are significantly lower than the average 16.4 million people that tuned in last year when the games were split between Prime Video, FOX, and the NFL Network. Amazon warned advertisers to expect fewer viewers before the season began, but the company was surely hoping that the over 13 million people who streamed the first “TNF” matchup of 2022 would all stick around throughout the season.

Even if Prime Video managed to maintain that 13 million mark, it would be well below the reach of NFL games broadcast on linear channels. “Sunday Night Football,” which is the highest-rated primetime show in each of the last 11 years, draws about 20 million viewers every week.

Still, coming into the season, Prime Video would probably not be too disappointed by the results. Before the season started, the streamer expected to get around 12.5 million viewers per week, and much of the shortfall can be attributed to the games themselves. “TNF” has always been notorious among NFL fans for featuring lower-quality matchups and a sloppier product on the field due to the short turnaround for teams.

Even with those mitigating factors in mind, other companies that are exploring ways to integrate live sports into their streaming portfolios will surely be watching the “TNF” ratings throughout the rest of the season. The numbers might spook some services considering entering the world of live sports like Netflix, which despite being the largest standalone streaming service in the world, does not currently offer any live sports. Netflix did attempt to get in on the bidding for Formula 1 racing this summer, but ultimately didn’t want to compete with Disney’s offer. However, recent reports indicate that the streaming giant is interested in live sports, but probably only if it can own the league.

The transition of sports to streaming is simply a matter of time. The NBA may be the next big domino to fall, with companies like Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery expressing public interest in streaming more games. Apple TV+ has secured the rights to stream every Major League Soccer game for the next 10 years, and is deep in negotiations with the NFL to become the streaming home of its out-of-market games package NFL Sunday Ticket. But Prime Video’s ratings challenges show that there are still issues to overcome before sports move entirely to streaming.

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