Photo credit: Jacob Breinholt Photography
Growing up, New York Giants star running back Saquon Barkley was always a fan of the NFL—even today, he still has fond memories of watching Thursday Night Football (TNF).
“I remember just being a kid and watching on Thursday night,” Barkley said at an Amazon Ads networking event for financial services professionals in March. “So my first time I was able to play primetime on Thursday, I wanted it to be special.”
And Barkley’s own TNF debut was special, indeed. Barkley’s primetime debut was a TNF game versus the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018, in which he finished with 229 all-purpose yards and a 50-yard touchdown.
Along with mixing and mingling, guests at the event held at VERSA NYC had the chance to learn about the new advertising opportunities brought by TNF on Prime Video and Twitch. The highlight of the night was a Q&A between Marie Donoghue, Amazon’s VP of Global Sports Video, and Barkley.
The excitement of Thursday nights
Donoghue, one of Adweek’s 2021 most powerful women in sports, shared her excitement about where Amazon is taking TNF, as well as live sports in general. As the exclusive streaming home for TNF for the next 11 seasons, Amazon is poised to create a game-changing experience for audiences and advertisers alike. Just one example is the recent announcement that iconic play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and Emmy-winning analyst Kirk Herbstreit have signed on to call the games.
Barkley, a first-round draft pick by the Giants in 2018, provided a player’s perspective on TNF. Even when he isn’t playing, he shared that players enjoy watching Thursday games. “It’s a big thing. It's just another reason we can get together as a team,” he explained. Especially if Barkley knows they’ll be facing one or both teams later on in the season—it’s a chance for players to scout a future opponent.
Of course, fans also love TNF. “That’s when the football week starts. It gets fans excited,” Barkley said. “Even if it’s not your favorite team, you get to tune in during the middle of the week and watch football.”
What Saquon Barkley wants to see from Twitch
Along with streaming on Prime Video, TNF will also have a home on Twitch, which has increasingly grown as a destination for fans to watch live sports.
“I know you’re a big Twitch guy,” Donoghue said to Barkley, who has participated in multiple streaming events with a variety of Twitch streamers. “What do you think we should do on Twitch with the NFL?”
“I think it’s going to be fun. Twitch is going to allow the fans to be more interactive,” Barkley said.
That interactive nature can help viewers immerse themselves in the game. “I'm a big believer in expanding knowledge of the game of football,” he explained, and says he wants to see Twitch help give fans a better understanding of “the Xs and Os” of the game.
“Your game, your way”
Donoghue explained how the Amazon production of TNF, on Prime Video as well as on Twitch, can help fans learn more about the game of football. All parts of the program, from the announcers to in-game features such as Next Gen Stats, can give viewers more in-depth information to help them learn while they’re watching.
“How do you make fans a little smarter? How do you put them ‘on the field’? How do you help them understand what's going on in the field a little better?” These are the kinds of questions Amazon is thinking about, according to Donoghue.
But that doesn’t mean she expects every football fan to become an “Xs and Os” viewer. Some fans want to dive into the numbers, while some just want to sit back, relax, and watch. The Amazon production of TNF is made for all kinds of watchers. “I love it because we don't have to pick somebody to program for—we’re going to show the game and let you pick the way you want to watch it,” said Donoghue, describing it as “your game, your way.”
Taking it to another level
Donoghue also talked to Barkley about leadership. For the past three years, his teammates on the New York Giants have elected him as their captain, starting in just his second year as a professional player.
One of the keys of leadership, for Barkley, is not being satisfied with staying at the same level, and always looking for ways to become better. “Each day I try to find something to improve—not just my physical ability but [also] the way I can lead.”
This approach to leadership can be applied outside of the world of sports. Amazon, from Prime Video to Twitch and beyond, is always looking for ways to take the next step and continue improving the customer experience.
Barkley said he’s looking forward to what Amazon will do next with TNF. “I’m really excited about Amazon and TNF because I think you guys will do some really cool things to take it to another level.”