This year, Amazon will partner with NBC and NFL Network to broadcast Thursday Night Football, which represents yet another move by a tech giant to enter the traditional live sports broadcasting space. But today's announcement regarding the broadcast team Amazon will use for the 11 Thursday Night games is notable for other reasons.
Amazon Makes History for Thursday Night Football
A new Prime broadcast brings a welcome surprise
Starting with Thursday nights Vikings-Rams tilt, Amazon Prime will feature the first all-female broadcast booth to ever call a full NFL game. Helmed by ESPN's Hannah Storm and NFL Network's Andrea Kremer—two veteran broadcasters who have long proven to be experts on the NFL as commentators and as reporters—Amazon's broadcast is a stride toward progress for America's conservative professional league. "NFL fans will hear history made this season," proclaimed Amazon Prime VP Greg Hart in a statement to Reuters.
Kremer and Storm’s appointment is certainly welcome news and a belated step forward for the NFL broadcasting community. But Amazon’s announcement buried the lede with respect to several important distinctions.
First of all, NBC and NFL Network's main broadcast will still feature Joe Buck and Troy Aikman—Storm and Kremer’s feed will only be on Amazon, and even then you’ll have the option to toggle to Buck/Aikman or a Spanish-language feed. So opting out of Storm and Kremer’s feed is possible, where toggling out of Buck and Aikman’s broadcast while watching the game on NFL Network (which is how most people will likely watch the game) is not.
However, Amazon does crack the door open on an interesting, relatively unexplored competitive advantage. In a time where many teams' and leagues' broadcast rights are among the most coveted assets remaining in the live television business—the Chicago Cubs recently elected to build their own television network from scratch—Amazon's TNF gives the viewer a menu of options for broadcast audio. By being able to switch between audio feeds, and to have those feeds sync seamlessly to the game action, it's possible that demand could increase for alternate feeds. These feeds could be licensed and sold by Amazon, something that a traditional cable provider couldn't as easily provide.
Maybe sizing up this market is a ways off. Regardless, it appears that people are willing to pay up.