What advertisers can learn from a record-breaking 2023 Thursday Night Football season

March 18, 2024 | By Justin Kirkland, copywriter

TNF Announcers

The lights over the stadium may have dimmed. The roar of the crowd may have faded, but every coach knows that planning for the coming year begins now. There’s no offseason. So like any good coach, Amazon Ads has begun preparing and cracking open its playbook to get ready for the coming season.

During the 2023 season, Thursday Night Football saw significant growth in the form of viewership, broadcast innovation, engagement, and, most importantly, the audience experience. Learnings from the past season are going to be especially important as Prime Video continues to expand its live sports portfolio. In March 2024, Amazon Ads will begin carrying coverage of the National Women’s Soccer League and Premier Boxing Champions, and in 2025, Amazon Ads will add exclusive NASCAR coverage to its repertoire.

“Live sports on Prime Video provides advertisers with incredible audience reach, and we combine it with performance and measurement capabilities that are unique to Amazon Ads,” says Danielle Carney, director of U.S. video and live sports sales. “Thursday Night Football finished the 2023 season with record audience gains. Looking ahead, we see huge opportunities for advertisers to integrate Streaming TV campaigns across our live sports properties with broad and comprehensive marketing strategies.”

As Amazon Ads prepares for the 2024 season, let’s take stock of the past season’s fresh ad opportunities, the kickoff of a new holiday tentpole event, and an all-time viewership record for a streamed, regular-season NFL game.

Audience growth, across the field

A key theme from the 2023 TNF season was audience growth—whether the measure is overall audience, the increase of cord-cutters, or new and leaned-in NFL viewers. According to Nielsen, TNF on Prime Video registered a 24% increase among total viewers over the previous season (11.86 million vs. 9.58 million), with 13 weeks of double-digit, year-over-year (YoY) gains among total viewers, as well as its second consecutive season of double-digit increases in the hard-to-reach P18–34 demographic.

By the end of the season, TNF won 15 out of 15 Thursday nights as the most-watched program across broadcast and cable (P2+).1 After breaking the record for regular-season viewership on a streaming channel, TNF on Prime Video broke its own record again on November 30, when the thriller between the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys attracted an average audience of 15.3 million viewers and a peak audience of nearly 18 million.

As Amazon Ads waded deeper into the figures, it became clear that viewership gains were more significant than overall growth. As the NFL’s regular season closed, the median age of Prime Video’s TNF audience is almost seven years younger than those watching the NFL on linear networks,1 and nearly 14 years younger than audiences watching prime-time broadcast television during the fall 2023 season.

TNF also established there are opportunities for advertisers to reach new audiences beyond traditional football fans. In the P18–34 demographic, TNF saw an increase of 14% YoY. TNF also generated a new high for female viewership, with an average of 3.86 million viewers (F2+) per game—a 30% increase from the previous year. When it comes to the elusive cord-cutter audience, TNF averaged 4.1 million cord-cutters watching per game, up 55% from the 2022 season.2

Beyond the game, TNF pre- and post-game shows saw steady growth, with TNF Tonight attracting an average of 1.39 million viewers (P2+),1 constituting a 24% increase from the year prior. TNF Nightcap averaged even more, with 1.84 million viewers.1

Another unique attribute of TNF for advertisers is the affluent audience. Viewers earned a median household income of $101,000, about 16% higher than audiences watching the NFL on linear networks. TNF’s audience is leaned in and 61% more likely to search for brands advertised than NFL linear audiences.3

Growing possibilities for customers

Throughout the 2023 season, Amazon Ads was laser-focused on how to help customers deliver messaging that was both more relevant and more seamless than ever before. Introduced in 2023 to TNF customers, interactive video ads (IVA) offered advertisers the ability to create moments that take viewers from content to commerce, without ever having to leave the game. Audience-based creative (ABC) also proved to be an important tool for customers. With the ability to implement audience-based creative, advertisers were able to run multiple creatives, simultaneously in the same ad spot, and direct specific messaging to audiences based on best fit.

While it’s in the early days, the measurement and signals for the newly introduced ad products indicate they are performing for advertisers. Advertisers leveraging ABC are seeing a 17% higher search-engagement rate over advertisers not using ABC, proving the value of ad optimization for that search-inclined TNF audience. Additionally, numbers around incremental lift and impact are notable, with those leveraging audience-based creatives seeing a 114% increase in branded-search rate and an 83% increase in purchase rate.

IVA placements are also helping drive impact across the marketing funnel. Brands using IVA saw a 23% higher detail-page-view rate compared to the same ads without a call-to-action. And the clickable ads saw a 10% higher detail-page-view rate compared to the same ads with a QR code.

Of course, when these products are paired together, those numbers improve, making the ease and convenience of the TNF on Prime Video ad experience more seamless than ever before.

Men and women standing

The on-air talent for Thursday Night Football

Creating new, relevant opportunities

As the Amazon live sports portfolio expands, one of the most important pieces of media planning is creating relevant, scalable opportunities for advertisers. That doesn’t mean one-size-fits-most options, either. These activations are working concepts, built by Amazon Ads with the customer top of mind.

“What has been most important is for our team to ideate, create, and execute partnerships that align with the objectives of the brands we work with,” says Amy McDevitt, head of live sports brand partnerships at Amazon Ads. “We take a consultative approach and build contextually relevant executions that weave the messaging that matters most to brands into the fabric of Thursday Night Football.”

Partnerships with advertisers have expanded across last season, during weekly TNF games and beyond. With the success of the NFL and Prime Video’s first Black Friday game, advertisers were able to reach new audiences. For 1 in 4 viewers, the Black Friday game was the first NFL game they’d watched on Prime Video this season, and 31% of viewers did not watch any of the three linear NFL games on competing networks during Thanksgiving.4 Those Black Friday viewers were 92% more likely to search for brands or products advertised than viewers of ads on competitive NFL Thanksgiving games. Additionally, there was more than 350% higher engagement rates for Black Friday QR codes on average than their ads in prior game weeks.

As TNF on Prime Video continues to grow and more franchises join the portfolio, Amazon Ads continues to look forward and imagine new ways to grow its audience, build on its library of advertising solutions, and serve as a hub of innovation and inspiration for customers. Coming off a successful second season, there’s only one way forward: back it up, and do it even bigger in the coming year.

You can begin reaching out to your sales contacts now to discover the ways your brand can come to life on TNF in the coming year.

1 Nielsen, Live+SD. Sept 14–Dec 28, 2023. Based on P2+ AMA.
2 Nielsen Live+SD, 2023 TNF vs. 2022 TNF
3 EDO, Sept 7, 2023–Jan 7, 2024, NFL Linear includes regular season across CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN. Based on Google search rate.
4 Nielsen; Nov 24, 2023