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‘Thursday Night Football’ Passes Its First Test on Prime Video

Bob McCullough

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:

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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