Amazon to make 'Thursday Night Football' streaming debut

Amazon will make its NFL game debut today in what potentially could be a game-changer for how viewers consume football in the future.

Amazon Prime Video will stream the Chicago-Green Bay game today as the NFL's official OTT partner for Thursday Night Football in 2017. It is the start of a package that calls for Amazon, on its various platforms, to carry the 10 Thursday night games broadcast by CBS and NBC, which also will be simulcast on NFL Network. It also will stream the Pittsburgh-Houston game on Christmas Day.

This is a big step for the online retail giant, which continues to expand its footprint in video and entertainment. Amazon reportedly is paying the NFL $50 million for the rights to stream these games, more than five times what Twitter paid in 2016.

"For all of our content, sports related and otherwise, it always comes back to what do our consumers want? What will they find compelling," said Jim DeLorenzo, who is head of sports for Amazon Video. "It's hard to find more compelling content than live NFL games."

Amazon doesn't disclose its numbers, but it is believed to have 54 million subscribers in the U.S. and 80 million worldwide. That produces two main agendas for Amazon and the NFL regarding the Thursday night package.

In the U.S., Amazon is hoping to reach many of its subscribers who have opted out of over-the-air, cable or satellite delivery systems for TV. An estimated 20 million people, many in the age 20-30 range, are known as "cord-cutters."

Through Amazon, the games can be viewed on its Prime Video app for TVs, game consoles, set top boxes and connected devices, which includes Amazon Fire TV, mobile devices and online.

"We believe in providing choice for customers who don't have traditional outlets to get the games," DeLorenzo said. "This provides another outlet for them."

Amazon Prime Video, which is available in more than 200 countries, also wants to help the NFL expand its reach beyond the U.S. Toward that end, Amazon will offer audio options for these games in Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and a U.K. English version in which the announcers will explain the game to people just getting introduced to football.

"From our perspective, it certainly is important to broadcast these games on a global basis," DeLorenzo said. "It helps give the NFL international exposure."

Amazon's involvement in this deal has sparked considerable speculation that this is just the start of a bigger relationship with the NFL. With the NFL's current TV package set to run through the 2022 season, and with the media landscape changing rapidly and dramatically, there is much talk that Amazon, and other companies with deep pockets like Google and Facebook, could be major NFL TV partners in the 2020s.

The NFL will be exploring all of its options. When the Amazon deal was announced in the spring, Brian Rolapp, Chief Media and Business Officer for the NFL, said, "We are continually looking for ways to deliver our games to fans wherever they watch, whether on television or on digital platforms ... As has been the case with all our streaming initiatives, we look forward to continuing to innovate with our partners as we learn the best ways to serve our fans both this season and into the future."

DeLorenzo wouldn't speculate on Amazon's future intentions.

"We don't comment on our future plans," DeLorenzo said. "What we can say is that we think people in the future will want options on how they watch content. We want to make sure we can provide them the flexibility to watch what they want, where they want, and how they want."

For now, Amazon is focused on 2017. The rollout for its first game included an amusing ad in which a literal Bear and Packer, not actual players, play catch by an Amazon stream. Other features include an Amazon pregame show hosted by Tiki Barber, focusing on the NFL and food, and an Alexa Trivia Skills contest featuring Marshawn Lynch.

DeLorenzo said Amazon will be monitoring how their subscribers react to this year's coverage of the NFL to determine if this is a successful venture.

"How do our customers feel about it? Do our customers find it compelling?" DeLorenzo said. "That's always what is going to drive us."

Big NFL life: There will be no shortage of content for the upcoming A Football Life on John Madden on Friday at 9 p.m. ET on NFL Network. Madden was a Hall of Fame coach for the Oakland Raiders before becoming a broadcast icon with his 30 years as an NFL analyst.

"He was a Hall of Fame football coach," said NBC's Bob Costas in the film. "He was a gigantic television star. Why? Because the bit of advice that everybody gets that's easy to say but hard to follow: be yourself. He was able to be himself ... and people loved him."

New addition: Former New York Giant receiver Victor Cruz will be on Good Morning Football: Weekend Saturday at 10 a.m. ET on NFL Network. Cruz will make periodic appearances on the show throughout the season, as well as various other NFL Network shows.

Extra points: Former Giant Tiki Barber joins his twin brother and former Buccaneer Ronde in the booth for FOX's coverage of the New York Giants-Tampa Bay game Sunday.

In support of CBS's partnership with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in creating awareness of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Thursday Night Football pregame coverage features the story of St. Jude patient Kate, a college freshman at the University of North Carolina from Rockford, Ill. and huge fan of the Chicago Bears.

On ESPN's Monday Night Countdown, Michelle Beisner-Buck will have a feature on Marty Schottenheimer. Last January, the former NFL coach revealed he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He and his wife, Pat, share how the disease has impacted their lives.

On ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown, Kevin Negandhi chronicles Tom Brady's trip to China during the off-season, where tried new experiences such sumo wrestling and walking the Great Wall.

Week 4 announcer lineup

Thursday

CBS/NFL Network/Amazon Prime Video, 8:25 p.m. ET

Chicago at Green Bay: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo

Sunday

CBS 1 p.m. ET

Buffalo at Atlanta: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green

Cincinnati at Cleveland: Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta

Pittsburgh at Baltimore: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts

Jacksonville at New York Jets: Andrew Catalon, James Lofton

Tennessee at Houston: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon

CBS 4:25 p.m. ET

Oakland at Denver: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo

FOX 1 p.m ET

New Orleans at Miami: Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis

Carolina at New England: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman

Detroit at Minnesota: Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman

Los Angeles Rams at Dallas: Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston

FOX 4:05 p.m. ET

New York Giants at Tampa Bay: Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber, Tiki Barber

San Francisco at Arizona: Sam Rosen, David Diehl

Philadelphia at Los Angeles Chargers: Dave Stockton, Mark Schlereth

NBC 8:30 p.m. ET

Indianapolis at Seattle: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth

Monday

ESPN 8:30 p.m. ET

Washington at Kansas City: Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden

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