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SMW 17: Amazon Reaches 7.1M Viewers for Thursday Night Football

Amazon achieved some impressive viewing and engagement numbers for its first 4 NFL Thursday Night Football games. Delivering the opening day keynote address for Streaming Media West 2017, Keith Wymbs, chief marketing officer for AWS Elemental, revealed that following week 4 Amazon reached 7.1 million viewers per game with an average viewing time of 51 minutes. Games are available to Amazon Prime members in 187 countries and territories, and those subscribers can view games on 600 different devices. Sports fans have 6 more opportunities this season to catch one of the streams.

Amazon won the competition for NFL Thursday Night Football in April, when it outbid Twitter with an offer reported to be in the neighborhood of $50 million.

Getting that content meant getting the rights to live events with an international appeal. Amazon's cloud video services brings agility and speed to live sports events, Wymbs said. Publishers today can't invest in new infrastructure every 5 to 10 years, but need a cloud solution to eliminate that burden. Going with a cloud vendor reduces time to market when experimenting with new services, and frees publishers from having to guess at audience capacity. They also benefit from massive economies of scale.

"When you look at the NFL, obviously it's really high demand content," said Jim De Lorenzo, head of sports for Amazon Video. De Lorenzo joined Wymbs for the second half of the keynote, and explained how Amazon Prime is a global service, so the company needs compelling content that will appeal to a large number of viewers. "We're looking for content that we believe will have strong customer demand," he said.

As it moves into live sports streaming, Amazon is looking for feedback from its subscribers. The high viewing and engagement numbers are encouraging both to Amazon and the right holders. Viewers are watching on mobile devices and living room TVs. Amazon makes the games available with multiple audio tracks, and De Lorenzo highly recommended giving the U.K. announcers a try.

"We do have the opportunity to sell against a portion of the ad avails that are there," De Lorenzo said, pointing out how Amazon will partly monetize its investment. He also highlighted the crucial issue of latency, which is especially important with live sports streaming since no one wants to get an alert on their phone saying their team just scored when the feed they're watching is 30 seconds behind. Amazon was doing a good job in that area, he said.

Live video needs to be reliable from any location; provide maximum quality, uptime, and distribution; and deliver a solid economic return, Wymbs emphasized. And most important, it has to offer just as good an experience as broadcast—if not better—because no one will tune in for long if it doesn't.

[Note: Following the publication of this piece, an Amazon representative reached out to say that after week 5 Thursday Night Football had been streamed by 8.6 million total viewers. Games averaged 1.7 million viewers watching for 49 minutes.]

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