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Amazon Is Taking on Old-School Broadcast Giants With This New Deal

Amazon's Thursday Night Football deal with the NFL will provide an unprecedented look at Amazon Prime Video's live streaming numbers.
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Some transparency is coming to digital media now that advertising has made its way onto streaming services.

When it comes to advertising dollars, the NFL is king in the U.S., which is by far the world's largest advertising market

NFL broadcasts, including shoulder programming like pregame and postgame shows, accounted for the top 27 live broadcasts in 2021 and 47 of the top 50 telecasts last year, according to Nielsen.

But broadcast television may eventually become a relic of the 20th and early 21st century as streaming services gain in popularity. 

 the NFL has also seen digital viewership of its games double over the past three seasons, Brian Rolapp, the NFL's chief media and business officer, wrote in SI recently

"A perfect example is Super Bowl LVI, viewed by an average audience of more than 11 million fans just on digital platforms. This digital viewership will continue to grow rapidly," Rolapp said. 

Streaming services are in the process of switching to a dual-revenue model that features advertising dollars. Meanwhile, signs that the subscription model may have already peaked are starting to appear.

In that environment a partnership with the NFL, the biggest game in town, is invaluable. 

"Of course some things we're obviously excited about are Thursday Night Football and Amazon streaming TV ads capabilities," David Fildes, Amazon's director of investor relations, said on the company's earnings call

In May, Amazon won the bid for the broadcast rights to the NFL's Thursday Night Football package for 11 years, reportedly for $11 billion. This week, three months later the company announced that it's teaming with Nielsen to measure ratings for the broadcast.

More Transparent Streams 

Amazon struck a three-year deal with Nielsen to have the audience measurement company measure Prime Video's exclusive Thursday Night Football telecasts. 

Nielsen will begin measuring viewership numbers with its preseason game telecast on August 25 featuring the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans. 

This is the first time a streaming service will have one of its live programs measured as part of Nielsen's National TV measurement service. Nielsen says this unprecedented move will allow the company to "measure customers' changing viewing behaviors and how content owners are distributing programming."

“Nielsen is the long-time leader in the measurement space, providing gold-standard currency to the media industry and we’re thrilled that Amazon recognizes that and is working with us to bring a streaming service into our National TV measurement for the first time ever,” Deirdre Thomas, Nielsen's managing director of U.S. audience measurement said in a statement.

Nielsen will measure Thursday Night Football viewership from Prime Video and Twitch, as well as over-the-air stations in teams' local markets each week, and out-of-home viewing. 

For the national audience Nielsen will produce one rating number combining viewership from all streaming platforms. The company will also provide a local rating for regional affiliates carrying hometown games.

"We are committed to delivering comparable, comprehensive measurement of all audiences, across all platforms, and this agreement to measure TNF viewership is a testament to that commitment," Thomas said. 

Not the Only Player in Town

Amazon choosing Nielsen is a big deal for the company as Nielsen has more competition these days. 

While the company is still the dominant player in viewership management, according to NextTV, it has increasing competition in the sports space.

For the most recent Super Bowl, NBCUniversal  (CMCSA)  used iSpot.tv, a 10-year old measurement company working with the network, to measure viewership. 

Nielsen's numbers originate from its panel of 42,000 households wired to meters that measure viewership habits. Those households directly measure 101,000 viewers. 

That stable includes 21,000 households that are part of Nielsen's streaming meter panel. Nielsen says it is working on its new system, Nielsen One, which it says will draw more on big data. 

Meanwhile, iSpot relies primarily on data from millions of smart TV sets.