Are You Ready For Some PAY Football?

 

How much would you be willing to pay to be the exclusive home to an NFL game? How about $67M per game? When you break it down, that’s what Amazon Prime is paying the league for its package of Thursday Night Football that debuted Thursday Night.

I expect the coverage to be unremarkable. Amazon has done nothing but hire broadcast network veterans to run the show. For everyone to get comfortable with each other, they’ve been taping practice games for weeks. Will there be moments that Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit step on each other? Maybe. But the only wildcard in this pack is the production truck itself. While it comes from one of the leading providers of remote facilities, Game Creek Video, it’s brand new. And brand new anything that complicated comes with surprises. That’s why Bezos paid for all those practice games.

The real question is will the audience be able to find it? Your benchmark will be $16.4 million, that’s the combined numbers between the Fox/NFL Network simulcast of the same package last season. Interestingly, Amazon is only promising advertisers 75% of that, around 12M per game. (For perspective, the worst draw in the NFL – a matchup between two losing teams late in the season draws around 4M on a Sunday afternoon.)

As it has since cable entered the picture in 1990 – ESPN and Turner once split a Sunday Night package – the league will require Amazon to sell the games to broadcast television in both teams’ respective markets. If you’re in the Kansas City area last night the game was on KSHB (41) and in Los Angeles it was available on KTTV (11). And those stations will be included in Prime’s viewership numbers. (Next week: Pittsburgh WPXI (11) at Cleveland WEWS (5).)

This deal is scheduled to run until 2033. But as rights fees outstrip revenues, a network contract doesn’t mean much. ESPN bailed a year early from its last NASCAR package. Fox couldn’t wait to get out of its deal with the USGA. Yes, this is the NFL but nobody, not even Jeff Bezos, is required to lose money forever.

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  1. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Ha!  I watch college football on Thursday night, and I suspect a majority of viewers do too.  Thursday night pro football is a big mistake . . .

    • #1
  2. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    Might watch.  Unless there’s a fee on top of Prime.

    • #2
  3. AMD Texas Coolidge
    AMD Texas
    @DarinJohnson

    Stad (View Comment):

    Ha! I watch college football on Thursday night, and I suspect a majority of viewers do too. Thursday night pro football is a big mistake . . .

    I didn’t even know college football on Thursday was a thing. I wouldn’t watch either unless SMU or the Cowboys are playing.

    • #3
  4. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    AMD Texas (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Ha! I watch college football on Thursday night, and I suspect a majority of viewers do too. Thursday night pro football is a big mistake . . .

    I didn’t even know college football on Thursday was a thing. I wouldn’t watch either unless SMU or the Cowboys are playing.

    In my limited NFL watching years ago, Thursday games didn’t happen until December when college had finished its season. 

    Was Amazon broadcasting someone else’s feed for a while? I don’t know when it started but my Fire TV was offering me Thursday NFL games for some years. It sounds as though Amazon is solo now.

    • #4
  5. Justin Other Lawyer Coolidge
    Justin Other Lawyer
    @DouglasMyers

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    In my limited NFL watching years ago, Thursday games didn’t happen until December when college had finished its season.

    IIRC, they also tended to air less interesting/competitive games because of the short turnaround from Sunday to Thursday.  But the NFL realized you have to put good teams on Thursday night if you want good ratings.  Tonight’s and last Thursdays games are good examples–really good matchups (although last week’s game wound up being a blow out).

    • #5
  6. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    Zero. Would pay for college football but think ESPN getting enough of my money for now. 

    • #6
  7. EJHill+ Podcaster
    EJHill+
    @EJHill

    Bishop WashWas Amazon broadcasting someone else’s feed for a while?

    Amazon offered the Fox/NFL feed last season. The tantalizing aspect for Amazon is their world-wide distribution. But because of the time differences I’m not sure of the appeal. At 8 pm ET it’s 1am in London, 8 am in Beijing and 10 am in Sydney.

    In Canada the games will be seen on TSN, their version of ESPN (Disney owns a minority share and licenses “SportsCentre” to them.) 

    • #7
  8. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    EJHill+: But the only wildcard in this pack is the production truck itself. While it comes from one of the leading providers of remote facilities, Game Creek Video, it’s brand new.

    Is the production truck literally a truck?  A tractor-trailer, with a production studio in the trailer?

    If so, how much does one of those cost?  

    • #8
  9. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    EJHill+: But the only wildcard in this pack is the production truck itself.

    They should have asked you to come out of retirement, or did they?

    • #9
  10. The Great Adventure Coolidge
    The Great Adventure
    @TGA

    I’ve checked out of both pro and college football.  My departure from pro happened years ago, but this is my first year ignoring the college game.  NIL, the transfer portal, and the ceaseless drivel of the talking heads yammering on about the “COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF!!!” has completely and utterly ruined a game I used to love.

    Sigh.

    • #10
  11. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    The Great Adventure (View Comment):

    I’ve checked out of both pro and college football. My departure from pro happened years ago, but this is my first year ignoring the college game. NIL, the transfer portal, and the ceaseless drivel of the talking heads yammering on about the “COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF!!!” has completely and utterly ruined a game I used to love.

    Sigh.

    Agree.  I try to seek out the smaller schools and there’s so much on, you can usually find a decent game.   

    • #11
  12. EJHill+ Podcaster
    EJHill+
    @EJHill

    Dr. BastiatIs the production truck literally a truck?  A tractor-trailer, with a production studio in the trailer?

    If so, how much does one of those cost?  

    Yep. It can be a smaller box truck or a 53’ trailer with expanding sides. There is one company that dominates the business, Gerling and Associates in Sunbury, Ohio, just north of Columbus. An expando of 45’ or longer fully outfitted can run north of $10M. And for football there’s usually an ‘A’ Unit that houses production, audio, replay machines and video. In the ‘B’ Unit there’s usually graphics and the first-and-10 system. It also will carry a lot of extra equipment and sometimes the production offices.

    Here’s a shot I took during a Duke football game several years ago. This was a lower end ESPNU package with no ‘B’ Unit. It was a horizontal truck layout with my graphics station on the second bench. 

    Digital has been a boon to truck builders and engineers alike. When I first got into the business everyone was worried about weight. A monitor wall full of cathode ray tubes was the focal point of truck design. Enter the thin, high definition LCD screen and everything changed. One engineer told me after a conversion from analog to digital the average truck lost 600 lbs just in monitors.

    Because a production truck is so expensive, most providers are organized as LLCs and each truck is incorporated as its own business. That way if there’s an accident it doesn’t kill a whole fleet. It’s amazing that with the amount of hours they spend on the road it doesn’t happen all that often. I know of one that crashed outside of Cincinnati on the way to do an MLB game and that was about a decade ago. 

    I remember the 2nd or 3rd U.S. Open golf event I did. I counted 43 trucks in the compound. That represented almost a half a billion dollars of television.

    • #12
  13. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    EJHill+ (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: Is the production truck literally a truck? A tractor-trailer, with a production studio in the trailer?

    If so, how much does one of those cost?

    Yep. It can be a smaller box truck or a 53’ trailer with expanding sides. There is one company that dominates the business, Gerling and Associates in Sunbury, Ohio, just north of Columbus. An expando of 45’ or longer fully outfitted can run north of $10M. And for football there’s usually an ‘A’ Unit that houses production, audio, replay machines and video. In the ‘B’ Unit there’s usually graphics and the first-and-10 system. It also will carry a lot of extra equipment and sometimes the production offices.

    Here’s a shot I took during a Duke football game several years ago. This was a lower end ESPNU package with no ‘B’ Unit. It was a horizontal truck layout with my graphics station on the second bench.

    Digital has been a boon to truck builders and engineers alike. When I first got into the business everyone was worried about weight. A monitor wall full of cathode ray tubes was the focal point of truck design. Enter the thin, high definition LCD screen and everything changed. One engineer told me after a conversion from analog to digital the average truck lost 600 lbs just in monitors.

    Because a production truck is so expensive, most providers are organized as LLCs and each truck is incorporated as its own business. That way if there’s an accident it doesn’t kill a whole fleet. It’s amazing that with the amount of hours they spend on the road it doesn’t happen all that often. I know of one that crashed outside of Cincinnati on the way to do an MLB game and that was about a decade ago.

    I remember the 2nd or 3rd U.S. Open golf event I did. I counted 43 trucks in the compound. That represented almost a half a billion dollars of television.

    Very cool – thanks!

    • #13
  14. aardo vozz Member
    aardo vozz
    @aardovozz

    I’m definitely ready for some pay football: How much are they paying me to watch?🤔

    • #14
  15. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    EJHill+ (View Comment):
    Digital has been a boon to truck builders and engineers alike. When I first got into the business everyone was worried about weight. A monitor wall full of cathode ray tubes was the focal point of truck design. Enter the thin, high definition LCD screen and everything changed. One engineer told me after a conversion from analog to digital the average truck lost 600 lbs just in monitors.

    I’m sure temperature control was an issue too. One of my assignments in the Air Force was supporting a satellite control center for R&D satellites. We had three large projection screens at the front of the ops floor for different displays. The center was kept cold and when we needed a break to get warm, we’d stand in front of the screens. Years later I ended back on the base in a different unit as a civilian. I setup a tour for my new group and the big screens had been replaced with some digital projectors and the side benefit was gone.

    • #15
  16. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    Considering that the NFL is one of the few things that draw viewers in real time (meaning they will watch commercials)it might not be a bad idea at all. Clearly it could even be a loss- leader to introduce and hook viewers on Prime’s other shows. These days I’m seeing media more like drug dealers who give out free samples for market share. And much of the game is about control rather than quarterly or yearly profits. Control first profits follow.

    My daughter has a subscription to Prime, so I’m watching it now. 

    Jeff Bezos is sitting with Rodger Godell in the stadium. It’s a big club and we ain’t in it.

    Elon Musk should buy the Chargers. Then the name would finally make sense!

    • #16
  17. EJHill+ Podcaster
    EJHill+
    @EJHill

    Bishop Wash: I’m sure temperature control was an issue too.

    Still is. To this day I’m not comfortable in a room unless you can hang meat. Sitting in a truck that’s 95° on the outside and 55° on the inside was not unusual for me.

    • #17
  18. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Is the production truck literally a truck?  A tractor-trailer, with a production studio in the trailer?

    Shoot, you can fit an air traffic control tower in a HMMWV.

    • #18
  19. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    It was a mess. Audio dropped out every three seconds. I thought it might be my rig, but no.

    • #19
  20. EJHill+ Podcaster
    EJHill+
    @EJHill

    I watched until it the 1st TD was scored.

    I didn’t notice a lot of the audio/video sync issues. But that’s the biggest problem with streamed sports. The outgoing feed is encoded dozens of times, in multiple resolutions for multiple platforms. And like everything else on the internet it’s fed in packets. Watching on your phone? What kind of phone? Android or iOS? Apple TV? We can give you full 1080i or 720p. Just give us 20 seconds to get enough packets to you so you don’t get the buffering wheel of death. And because they don’t have a main studio facility I believe Amazon is encoding everything on site.

    • #20
  21. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    EJHill+ (View Comment):

    I watched until it the 1st TD was scored.

    I didn’t notice a lot of the audio/video sync issues. But that’s the biggest problem with streamed sports. The outgoing feed is encoded dozens of times, in multiple resolutions for multiple platforms. And like everything else on the internet it’s fed in packets. Watching on your phone? What kind of phone? Android or iOS? Apple TV? We can give you full 1080i or 720p. Just give us 20 seconds to get enough packets to you so you don’t get the buffering wheel of death. And because they don’t have a main studio facility I believe Amazon is encoding everything on site.

    So will still with ESPN for now. Not good news. 

    • #21
  22. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I had an Amazon Prime membership up until Amazon cancelled Parler. I still order a lot of stuff from Amazon and get along fine without Prime. It sometimes means waiting a day or two longer to receive my items via free shipping, but Amazon was getting pretty sloppy with the old 2-day guarantee anyway.   

    Other than for the shipping, I’m not aware of any reason why I’d want Prime.  

     

    • #22
  23. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    EJHill+ (View Comment):

    I watched until it the 1st TD was scored.

    I didn’t notice a lot of the audio/video sync issues. But that’s the biggest problem with streamed sports. The outgoing feed is encoded dozens of times, in multiple resolutions for multiple platforms. And like everything else on the internet it’s fed in packets. Watching on your phone? What kind of phone? Android or iOS? Apple TV? We can give you full 1080i or 720p. Just give us 20 seconds to get enough packets to you so you don’t get the buffering wheel of death. And because they don’t have a main studio facility I believe Amazon is encoding everything on site.

    The audio issues happened late in the 3rd quarter, at least for me. There were buffering issues, but they weren’t related to my end. 

    Then again, while watching a pre-season game at a friend’s during a rainstorm, the dish lost the bird. It’s always something. 

    • #23
  24. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    This question shows how technically inept I am. Can you stream the game on a big screen T.V?  I’d rather watch a sporting event on a larger screen than my laptop.

    • #24
  25. David C. Broussard Coolidge
    David C. Broussard
    @Dbroussa

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    I had an Amazon Prime membership up until Amazon cancelled Parler. I still order a lot of stuff from Amazon and get along fine without Prime. It sometimes means waiting a day or two longer to receive my items via free shipping, but Amazon was getting pretty sloppy with the old 2-day guarantee anyway.

    Other than for the shipping, I’m not aware of any reason why I’d want Prime.

     

    There is the massive video library and original content as well. 

    • #25
  26. David C. Broussard Coolidge
    David C. Broussard
    @Dbroussa

    EJHill+ (View Comment):

    Bishop Wash: I’m sure temperature control was an issue too.

    Still is. To this day I’m not comfortable in a room unless you can hang meat. Sitting in a truck that’s 95° on the outside and 55° on the inside was not unusual for me.

    This is one reason that I went into IT, the rooms were cold. I would sometimes leave my office/cube and work in a server room because it was cold in there and I loved it. 

    • #26
  27. David C. Broussard Coolidge
    David C. Broussard
    @Dbroussa

    So, we watched a bit of the game last night (end of the first half, and to just after the KC touchdown in the third) and I found to to be quite a decent broadcast. The commentators were OK, but I’m not a big Herbstreet fan and felt he talked too much about college as opposed to pro ball. Frankly Michaels doesn’t need a color man. Colinsworth is great and added a lot to the broadcast on SNF, but Michaels doesn’t need him.

    The alternate feeds show promise but we didn’t watch any of them. They seem a bit gimmicky, but we watched a Manning vision game last season and it was pretty fun. Fun enough to get us to watch it once at least.

    As a side note we used to be rabid NFL viewers 25-30 years ago and watched MNF every week. Now, we watch only one team and sometimes not even that because it gets old watching them struggle year after year wasting what talent they have by poor GM decisions. Now, we might watch the start of a game and if they aren’t playing well turn it off and check the web to see if it got good later and then go back and watch it from the DVR. Thta way we skip the commercials, and the other team on offense. 

    • #27
  28. Justin Other Lawyer Coolidge
    Justin Other Lawyer
    @DouglasMyers

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    It was a mess. Audio dropped out every three seconds. I thought it might be my rig, but no.

    Interesting.  We tuned in during the pre-game and watched the whole thing uninterrupted.  No streaming issues at all.  But it appears you’re not alone.  Tuned into Fox Sports radio this morning around 6:00, and Amazon’s technical problems were pretty much of their opening segment.

    • #28
  29. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    David C. Broussard (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    I had an Amazon Prime membership up until Amazon cancelled Parler. I still order a lot of stuff from Amazon and get along fine without Prime. It sometimes means waiting a day or two longer to receive my items via free shipping, but Amazon was getting pretty sloppy with the old 2-day guarantee anyway.

    Other than for the shipping, I’m not aware of any reason why I’d want Prime.

     

    There is the massive video library and original content as well.

    If it has a great collection of Russian film and other foreign film, I’d be interested. Otherwise no. Way back when Netflix went the wrong way on this, I dropped Netflix. But I hardly have time even for that so it’s not a great loss. 

    • #29
  30. David C. Broussard Coolidge
    David C. Broussard
    @Dbroussa

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    David C. Broussard (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    I had an Amazon Prime membership up until Amazon cancelled Parler. I still order a lot of stuff from Amazon and get along fine without Prime. It sometimes means waiting a day or two longer to receive my items via free shipping, but Amazon was getting pretty sloppy with the old 2-day guarantee anyway.

    Other than for the shipping, I’m not aware of any reason why I’d want Prime.

     

    There is the massive video library and original content as well.

    If it has a great collection of Russian film and other foreign film, I’d be interested. Otherwise no. Way back when Netflix went the wrong way on this, I dropped Netflix. But I hardly have time even for that so it’s not a great loss.

    That’s fair. It sort of all depends on what you want to watch. We have a bunch of streaming services that we pay for but only watch four shows at a time and alternate episodes. Right now we are just using Peacock and Paramount+, oh and Disney+ for She-Hulk and Andor, plus we are watching House of the Dragon on HBO Max, and Rings of Power on Prime. I could cancel Netflix because we don’t watch much on it, but it’s a hassle to resub when you do want to watch something. We really only use Hulu during the TV season, but we get it ESPN+ and Disney+ at a discounted bundle price. Once again, the hassle isn’t worth it. 

    • #30
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