So a mere few hours before its second NFL Thursday night game, Amazon Prime Video finally announced the official tallies of viewership for their first a week earlier. Not exactly an overnight rating, for a number of both legitimate and red tape reasons, but in many ways worth the wait. Sports and business media, not to mention Wall Street, had been eagerly awaiting this data, chafing at the bit to make proclamations and forecasts from it.
Bottom line: Amazon has a lot to feel good about, despite the incredibly disparate, and frequently not fully accurate, analyses that accompanied yesterday’s news. Let me simplify all of this for you, dear reader, thusly:
— Per Nielsen, the September 15 Chargers-Chiefs game reached 13.2 million viewers. That’s above the reported 12.5 million Amazon guaranteed to advertisers.
— 1.3 million of those viewers came from over-the-air outlets in the Los Angeles and Kansas City DMAs. That means 11.9 million people in the U.S. watched a live event at the same time on a streaming service. That’s unprecedented.
— In terms of comparisons to benchmarks from 2021, while the figure was indeed below the roughly 18 million that watched a Chargers-Chiefs matchup in November that aired on FOX Sports and the NFL Network as well as Prime Video, it was 47 per cent above last year’s second week Thursday night game, which delivered 8.8 million viewers without the FOX broadcast overlay. Considering the coverage and availability gaps between broadcast and streaming, that’s outstanding.
— Amazon’s own metrics crowed, and numerous tech-savvy outlets reported, a total figure of 15.3 million viewers, which would mean 2.1 million watched via methods which are currently out of the realm of Nielsen’s measurement capacity, such as smartphones and tablets. In other words, roughly one in five viewers were watching somewhere else besides in front of a connected screen. That’s more than believable (especially in light of the kinds of lifts that have historically been seen with out-of-home viewing for top-tier sports events such as this).
— Amazon also bragged about the median age of this telecast being seven years younger than that of the average NFL game on broadcst or cable so far this year (46 vs. 53). Thanks to the presence of alternative feeds, including one featuring You Tube sensations Dude Perfect in their answer to the Manningcast that helped craft the appeal that led the game’s 4.25 rating among adults 18-34 was the best-ever for an early season NFL broadcast, that’s especially encouraging for any sport that is dealing with an aging video audience.
— FInally, despite a lot of fears about the potential breakdown in quality based upon numerous unsatisfying experiences with bandwidth overload, few reports of any such problems. The main broadcast, under the experienced stewardship of longtime Sunday Night Football producer Fred Gaudelli, was well-received, and the Dude Perfect alternate feed, along with a stat-centric one that featured Next Gen real-time information overlaid with Al Michaels’ experienced play-by-play, was especially appreciated (and my primary choice, for what it’s worth, though I did check out Dude Perfect and I can now at least understand why they are they so damn popular).
The conflicting numbers and verdicts that eminated from the myriad online outlets yesterday was discouraging to someone like myself who was intricately involved in educating trade press at a time when the landscape of ratings and advertiser guarantees was being revamped. On the heels of the announcement that FOX president Charlie Collier was moving on to Roku, I thought of the first person who had that job, Jamie Kellner, and his inclusion of me along with other research executives as he personally took reporters through the significance and the rationale behind FOX Broadcasting’s focus on adults 18-49 at a time when the industry was just beginning to receive nightly demographics via “peoplemeters”, and where historically only household ratings were discussed. Over many liquid lunches, our team of salesmen, publicists and geeks like me , we educated reporters on the whole peoplemeter process, why it mattered, and how to more intelligently disseminate data to its less informed readers. Sure, we spun it–who doesn’t? But at least the spinning was consistent, and more often than not was based on facts.
So to newly named head of Prime Video (and another former colleague of mine) Albert Cheng, as you await the results of last night’s Steelers-Browns matchup, let me offer you the tacit suggestion that you may want to borrow a page from Kellner’s playbook and have your team prepare the media for the likelihood that last night’s game will likely see downtickw from these historic acheivements. Pittsburgh and Cleveland are both smaller markets than Los Angeles, and neither Mitch Trubisky nor Jacoby Brissette, last night’s quarterbacks, have the national appeal of Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes, the headliners from last week. Plus, Fox opportunistically replaced football with a late-season baseball matchup featuring Aaron Judge trying to tie Roger Maris’ all-time American League home run record against the rival Red Sox, in an extra-inning game that ultmately saw the Yanks clinch a post-season berth in a walkoff. Suffice to say, that’s sterner competition than FOX offered with the Pirates and Mets the week before.
Not that you necessarily need my help. You already have a team of executives and talents that have definitely gotten off to a great start, both with execution and transparency. It’s a long season, and I’m certain there will be a lot more written about this, both by supporters and competitors. Some late-season games could be better, and a lot could still change. Hey, that late-season Jaguars-Jets game looks a lot less awful after last Sunday than it did a week ago, right?
For now, take the W, focus on the bigger picture of some truly transformational seeds in viewing habits and adoption that were sown, and do your best to keep the press as smart as they were when FOX handheld them through similar evolution decades ago. Keep being Amazonian warriors of transparency.
Until next time…