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of NFL With a stellar Week 1 rating of 20 million viewers tuning into Monday Night Football alone on cable channel ESPN, and more than 121 million total viewers through the first 16 games, the league roared.

And then there is tonight.

Look for Thursday Night Football viewers to watch despite marquee quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes Chiefs And Justin Herbert. of the Chargers, falling off a cliff. That’s because the NFL’s grand experiment in streaming the entire game package began Thursday night on Amazon Prime (Prime aired the preseason game; more below).

The NFA is well aware that the numbers pale in comparison, but how much do they pale in comparison? And is the league ready for the inevitable stories on social media of not getting the game and why it’s not online?

TNF averaged about 16 million viewers last year on Fox, while Amazon told advertisers to expect 12.5 million equivalent viewers. Experts scoff at that and expect half the number, if not lower.

“Last year they had a special game, I think Week 16. Cardinals, Niners. It was supposed to have made 4.8 million,” said Daniel Cohen, Octagon’s executive vice president of global media rights consulting. “I think with all the marketing that goes into it, it could be close to six this year.”

Richard Sherman will make his regular season debut Thursday as an analyst on Amazon Prime Thursday Night Football. (Kirby Lee/USA Today)

Former Fox Sports executive Patrick Cracks projects a low number. He hopes 8 million viewers for them. I think five will do.”

A rule of thumb among media analysts is that preseason games average 20 percent of regular-season games, Cohen said. There is only one data point with Prime, and it is not promising. The exhibition that took place on August 25 between the cardinals and 49 It had 1 million viewers, but half of that on local TV (in the home market of competing TNF teams, the tournament can be broadcast on traditional TV).

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Using 1 million, one would generate 5 million viewers for Thursday’s game, Cohen said. But there’s no precedent for a pre-season game being released exclusively — again, except in home markets — so it’s hard to know whether to rely on the 20 percent metric. The number of viewers on streams alone reaches 2.5 million.

Amazon has been offering TNF on Prime for weeks, and the platform has a broad reach with more than 200 million subscribers, according to the company. But even the NFL admits some of its fans may have trouble getting to the game.

“Our fans need to get it. Their behavior will change,” Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications, told reporters Wednesday. While the words aren’t newsworthy in an age where sports content is scattered across traditional and streaming platforms, making it harder for fans to catch their games, it’s surprising to hear from the NFL, as the league has long been a network. He emphasized the accessibility of television.

It’s clear why the league is doing this — yes, the $1 billion annual fee from Amazon is also crucial. Young fans are cutting the cord and watching media on the go and on different devices, so the idea is to cater to them on their terms.

“We want to make sure we’re available as often as possible and to as many fans as possible, and that we’re always available,” Miller said. “And in this case, it’s obviously just a matter of people moving to digital streaming years ago moving to a cable platform.”

Miller compared the move to 1987, when NFL games first aired on ESPN, which was a major shift from network to cable at the time. Of course, in those first few weeks, Miller added, the ratings dipped, but in the long run, the move proved a resounding success.

Octagon’s Cohen agrees with Miller in part on the comparison, but says there is one crucial difference: ESPN was a destination point for sports fans then and now. Amazon Prime is not.

“The general Amazon Prime subscriber continues, well, I can speak from experience of late, to buy Huggies,” said Cohen, who has a newborn daughter. “And, ‘Oh, by the way, maybe there’s a new movie on or an NFL game.’ But they’re much less, from a consumer perspective, much less motivated to go to Amazon for the NFL. It’s great that we’re part of the ecosystem, but with ESPN, the NFL really wanted to be a global leader in sports broadcasting.

TNF’s Amazon deal is for 11 years, so the league is definitely looking at the change as a long-term proposition. And in the long run, the league may be right, but it’s ridiculous that the big day comes after a week of prime ratings on traditional TV.

“Have you seen these ESPN numbers for Monday Night Football? They are bananas. They’re tough,” Crax said. “And a lot of people were talking, you know, ‘This is a really popular comedy stream. Everybody wants to do it.’ Now I see everyone is kind of ‘revenge of linear TV’. They’re banging, you know, streaming. Linear TV means free- and cable channels.

Beyond saying that the Amazon deal is a long-term proposition, how will the NFL drive lower numbers in the coming weeks? Cohen anticipates three talking points: the long-term play, reaching a younger audience and the innovation Amazon is expected to bring.

In terms of production, not much is expected to change at the hands of executive producer Fred Gaudelli, who has been running Sunday Night Football on NBC for years. More cameras, more sky camera and Even a new theme song.

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Amazon doesn’t want to rock the boat too much and turn off traditional audiences. There will be alternate feeds, one of which is perfect for sports and funny dudes. But in general, apart from the stage, the product should look normal.

Cohen said he’s interested in two areas tonight: any technical problems, from shutdowns to social media fueling vitriol; And whether Amazon’s talent can create any viral moments.

Amazon has invested heavily not only in game announcers Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit, but also in colorful commentators. Ryan Fitzpatrick And Richard Sherman.

“What crazy thing are you going to say, Richard Sherman, Ryan Fitzpatrick?” Cohen asked. “What’s going to happen with a virus? And what would be fun? What’s going to be Amazon’s response to the Manningcast, if you will, is that every Tuesday morning or Monday night, it’s going to be on Twitter that some weirdo or (something) Eli or Peyton said, so how are they going to get that viral?”

(Top photo: Steve Sanders/Associated Press)

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