Roger Goodell on the future of TNF: “Amazon Prime is going to build an audience for the NFL”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, play-by-play announcer Al Michaels, and analyst Kirk Herbstreit discuss the future of TNF.

11 May 2022 | By Dora Wang, Content Marketing Manager

“I really believe that Amazon Prime is going to change the way people watch football,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said during Amazon’s IAB NewFront presentation last week.

Goodell’s comment came while he explained why the NFL made the historic 11-year deal to exclusively broadcast Thursday Night Football on Prime Video and Twitch.

Long before the announcement of the deal last year, the NFL was looking at Amazon’s potential to help them continue to grow the NFL brand. In fact, he shared, “This deal was probably seven years in the making.”

The NFL commissioner was joined by iconic play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and award-winning analyst Kirk Herbstreit, the recently announced booth duo for TNF on Amazon, as they looked to the future of TNF and the role Amazon will play. Here are four main takeaways from their conversation.

Goodell’s keys to the success of the NFL brand

Over 100 years old, the NFL has a rich history as a key player in the sports and entertainment world. Herbstreit asked Goodell about the sustained success of the NFL, and what has helped them get to the point where, in Herbstreit’s words, “The NFL is the brand in sports”.

“Don’t tell yourself that, is the first thing,” Goodell joked.

He went on to explain that they have to continuously improve as a brand in order to succeed in the competitive and evolving entertainment industry. “Don’t get ingrained in a particular approach, bring in great partners like Amazon, and keep looking to find ways to engage your fans differently,” Goodell said.

Expanding the NFL audience with Amazon

Moving TNF to Prime Video and Twitch marks a new era for the NFL, which has mostly broadcast games on linear TV. Michaels asked about the impetus for such a major move.

“We wanted to make sure that we’re reaching the broadest audience,” Goodell said. “We wanted to make sure [we had] a partner that could deliver that audience, and Amazon Prime was the partner we wanted because we knew they would.”

Reaching the broadest audience requires the ability to evolve. Viewers used to watch live sports exclusively on traditional linear TV, but the streaming audience is growing rapidly. Between 2021 and 2025, digital sports viewership is expected to grow by 71% to 107.4M people – one-third of the US.1 Embracing the streaming format is essential for the continued growth of the NFL’s viewership.

“We believe that we’re going to be able to help build an audience for Amazon Prime, but also Amazon Prime is going to build an audience for the NFL,” Goodell said.

Premium content for innovative fan engagement

To build that audience, the NFL continually works on developing and evolving its product. Goodell highlighted one of the key questions the NFL asks: “We really focus on: how do we reach more fans?”

Streaming TNF on Prime Video and Twitch opens up new opportunities to engage fans in innovative ways. Goodell revealed that he believes Amazon “is going to allow us to do things that we’ve only dreamed about to date”. mentioning more stats during games and different forms of interactivity as just two examples of the digital broadcast’s potential.

Fans will have more options for how to engage with TNF games, and this will help the NFL deepen its relationship with the fan base. “We’re really excited by that. We think that’s really the future of our relationship with our fans, and we’ll have a deeper relationship with them because of it,” Goodell said.

A peek at the 2022 Thursday Night Football schedule

Of course, the core of Thursday Night Football is the games themselves. This year’s first TNF game features the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers in their first match-up since last year's unforgettable face-off, where the Chiefs won in overtime 34-28. Led by two of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the NFL, Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert will go head to head as the Chiefs defend their home field against the Chargers.

Goodell teased an exciting additional detail about this year’s schedule – something that even Michaels and Herbstreit didn’t know. “We expect to have all 14 of our playoff teams [from the 2021 season] on Thursday Night Football,” he revealed.

After hearing all of this from the NFL commissioner, there’s only one question left to ask: Is it September yet?

1 eMarketer, September 2021