Streaming is part of the future of live sports, and from tennis to football to soccer, Amazon is helping fans watch these events in more places.
With a new year of sports ahead, we caught up with Marie Donoghue, the Vice President of Global Sports Video at Amazon, to better understand this evolving streaming landscape. Donoghue and her team made history in March 2021, when Prime Video became the first streaming service to secure an exclusive national broadcast package from the NFL as the destination for Thursday Night Football next season.
Prime members from around the world can now watch live sporting events like Thursday Night Football, the Premier League, US Open (tennis), Next Gen ATP Finals, WTA, UEFA Champions League, Roland-Garros, Ligue 1, WNBA, and more, and can subscribe to streaming services such as MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, and NBA TV through Prime Video Channels (availability varies by region).
In a broad sense, what trends have you observed in the sports live streaming landscape in 2021? How have audiences shifted from linear to streaming TV?
Over the last couple of years, the shift to streaming has really accelerated, with consumption habits evolving more towards digital and social, and fans having more teams, leagues, brands, and services to choose from. In 2021 we witnessed that momentum first hand on Prime Video, delivering over 300 days of live sports coverage across 6 territories, with more than 20,000 live events for customers. We only anticipate this momentum to continue, with the number of live events streaming on Prime Video expected to more than triple this year.
While sports broadcasting has remained largely unchanged over the last several decades, this shift offers Amazon an immense opportunity to evolve the broadcasting landscape and build unique experiences that allow fans to customize how they engage with sports.
What sports leagues made the transition to offering live streaming events in 2021? How have these offerings resonated with audiences?
There’s no better example than the NFL. In March of 2021, we became the first streaming service to secure an exclusive national rights package from the NFL, with Prime Video set to become the home of Thursday Night Football beginning with the 2022-2023 season. The historic deal was called a “seminal moment” by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and it marked the biggest step forward for sports streaming to date. In addition to streaming exclusivity on Prime Video, the deal expands the TNF package from 11 to 15 regular-season games and also includes one pre-season game per year. We can’t wait to get started next season.
What is the benefit for brands to reach these audiences live streaming sports?
Prime Video is uniquely positioned to produce and broadcast content globally with more than 200M Prime members around the world. We are open to experimenting on behalf of fans and leagues, and integrations with AWS and Twitch allow us to test new technologies that enhance the viewing experience, reach and engage new and younger audiences, and help organizations achieve their larger business goals.
Are there examples of leagues that had major successes by offering live streaming events in 2021? What does success look like in this space?
At Prime Video we had a number of major successes in 2021, launching new live sports properties around the world and setting new streaming records. In May, we streamed Roland-Garros for the first time ever on Prime Video in France, and over the summer we launched a number of top-flight soccer properties including UEFA Champions League in Germany and Italy, and Ligue 1 in France. Another big highlight for us was delivering Emma Raducanu’s historic run to the US Open women’s singles final to millions of UK sports fans in September. The championship became the most watched tennis match in Prime Video history. For Thursday Night Football, the Week 8 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals had the highest average minute audience ever for a TNF game on Prime Video and Twitch. The reception continues to be overwhelmingly positive and I’m particularly proud of our team for the world-class production, stellar delivery, and diverse talent lineup for all of these properties.
Why is it that so many viewers are eager to switch to streaming? What different viewing experience does it offer? What are the benefits of live streaming sports online for viewers?
A lot of what we’re doing is only possible on Prime Video thanks to the power and flexibility of our service and Amazon. We are always working back from the customer to figure out how to use new innovative technologies to improve the viewing experience and more deeply engage sports fans. In our NFL broadcast for example, right within our live stream we offer fans multiple audio options and X-Ray features that provide expert analysis, replays, fan polls, Next Gen Stats powered by AWS, and live play-by-play data analysis previously only available to coaches and announcers. For the Premier League, fans can toggle between live games, or can watch up to three streams simultaneously across devices. We also offer integrated live match stats and highlights through X-Ray, as well as the ability to listen to the game without commentary via our Stadium FX audio feed. Features like these have been tremendously well received and continue to resonate with sport fans who are always looking for more optionality. We’ll continue to look for ways to surprise and delight viewers, and think there are increasing opportunities with streaming TV and Amazon.
How do you predict the shift toward streaming will continue or change in 2022?
I don’t expect the industry to fully shift from the traditional model to streaming TV ads overnight, but we’ve come a long way and we’re seeing tremendous momentum for sports on Prime Video. With streaming you can reach audiences wherever they are, and you can create customized experiences that have the potential to change the way we watch sports.