Prime Video’s ‘Thursday Night Football’ grows audience before, during, after games

Prime Video will carry the Panthers-Bears game Thursday, and though its infrastructure can handle a big crowd, it’ll be interesting to see if all that bandwidth is needed for two teams that have combined for three wins.

SHARE Prime Video’s ‘Thursday Night Football’ grows audience before, during, after games
Prime Video’s pregame and postgame shows will be at Soldier Field for the Panthers-Bears game Thursday night.

Prime Video’s pregame and postgame shows will be at Soldier Field for the Panthers-Bears game Thursday night.

Prime Video

YouTube TV had been receiving rave reviews for its presentation of NFL Sunday Ticket, which streams out-of-market games on Sunday afternoons. But on Oct. 29, many viewers encountered significant buffering issues, preventing them from watching.

The next night, the direct-to-consumer service Bally Sports+ suffered a widespread outage that kept fans from watching in-market games.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s Prime Video continues to host millions of NFL fans for “Thursday Night Football” and has yet to experience a noticeable glitch, let alone an outage.

As more games migrate to streaming services, these platforms must have the bandwidth to accommodate large audiences without fail. Through a season and a half carrying the NFL, Amazon has it figured out.

“That has always been our biggest priority in live sports — making sure that customers have that flawless experience the minute they turn it on,” said Jared Stacy, director of global live sports production for Prime Video. “It’s something that this company obsesses over every day.”

Prime Video will deliver the Panthers-Bears game Thursday night to the nation (it also will air locally on Fox 32), and though its infrastructure can handle a big crowd, it’ll be interesting to see if all that bandwidth is needed for two teams that have combined for three wins.

It was needed for Prime Video’s first eight games this season. According to Nielsen, “Thursday Night Football” has made double-digit, year-over-year gains each week. It’s averaging 12.52 million viewers, up 25% from the eight-game average last season (10.01 million), when it finished at 9.58 million and had some questioning the package’s viability.

“People understand that Prime is the long-term home of ‘Thursday Night Football’ now,” Stacy said. “We’ve helped build that habitual behavior. We’ve made a concerted effort on the marketing side to make sure that every football fan in America knows that ‘Thursday Night Football’ is on Prime.”

Stacy and his team also have assembled a quality broadcast crew beyond the game booth of Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit. The numbers bear that out. The pregame “TNF Tonight” is averaging 1.40 million viewers, up 25% from the full-season average last year (1.12 million).

The postgame “TNF Nightcap” is averaging 1.93 million viewers, up 15% from the full-season average last year (1.68 million). That’s quite a number for a show that extends past midnight Eastern time.

“We thought there was a space postgame on Thursday night to do something that wasn’t being done in the NFL space,” Stacy said, “which was break down the game that you just saw and get you ready for the weekend ahead. It’s part NFL show and part late-night show. You have to give fans a reason to stay up.”

Stacy credits host Charissa Thompson and the production crew with bringing along a group of mostly TV neophytes. A year ago, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Richard Sherman and Andrew Whitworth came right off the field to join Prime Video. Tony Gonzalez was the only one with experience. You wouldn’t know it by watching.

“You don’t need to yell at the audience and tell them how much you know,” Stacy said. “The audience wants to feel like they’re part of a gang. When you look at the most successful shows in sports TV history, ‘Inside the NBA’ or ‘College GameDay’ or ‘Fox NFL Sunday,’ there’s a genuine camaraderie with those crews. Fans really respond to that, and it’s a fun hang for NFL fans late at night.”

On Thursday, they’ll be joined by Eagles center Jason Kelce, who’s on a bye week. Kelce partnered with Prime Video and NFL Films for the popular documentary “Kelce.” He also will visit with Michaels and Herbstreit during the game.

“The big thing is taking a big step forward in Season 2,” Stacy said. “We were fortunate enough in Season 1 to realize that we had a strong foundation and a great culture behind the scenes. Everybody really commits to working hard and having fun and giving fans the best experience possible.”

The Latest
The Cubs sit at 47-53 with a negative run differential as their playoff chances continue to decrease.
White Sox (27-73) become 14th team with 73-plus losses in first 100 games
Iconic New York rappers De La Soul kicked off the evening of Pitchfork Day 2 in Union Park.
Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark are the lone rookies making their All-Star debuts in Phoenix.
Kahleah Copper will make her Olympic debut in her ninth WNBA season. She accomplished the goal with steady improvement each year.