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Amazon Prime Video Making Final Preparations For NFL, Thursday Night Football

Amazon Prime Video seems to be equipped with the necessary tools on that end, as it plans to utilize various skycams, super slo-mo cameras and other camera angles to better present the game.

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Thursday Night Football

This past offseason, there were various changes pertaining to the 53-player rosters across the National Football League’s 32 teams – some moves that have altered the balance of power in both conferences and could lead to a new Super Bowl champion at season’s end. Similarly, both where and how football fans will consume games each week has also gone through a seismic shift, introducing all-digital counterparts to the traditional linear network packages. In total, the agreements run through the completion of the 2033 season, and are sure to alter the landscape of sports media.

Last year, the NFL and Amazon Prime Video finalized their 11-year agreement to broadcast all Thursday Night Football games on the streaming service, along with one preseason game. The media rights deal is the first of its kind, demonstrating the emphasis being placed on streaming technology and fan accessibility amid other changes in sports media. Amazon Prime Video had been simulcasting Thursday night games produced by Fox for the last few years, and was originally going to start producing broadcasts in 2023. The timeline moved up though, thanks in part to a reported eagerness to get started, and now the time has arrived for a new presentation of Thursday night matchups.

“What we learned mostly from our [simulcast] is the power of the NFL,” Amazon Vice President of Global Sports Video Marie Donoghue said. “That’s one of the reasons we ended up acquiring the exclusive rights. NFL fans are avid and rabid, and they expect quality. That’s what we’ll be doing here.”

A priority for Amazon Prime Video, aside from effectively promoting the broadcasts and continuing to build a working chemistry among its crew, will be to appeal to all types of viewers, whether or not they are football fans. It is one of many factors the team hopes will make its broadcast appointment viewing for those interested in live sports.

“We’re an innovation-first company [and] we approach our broadcasts that way,” Donoghue said. “….A lot of what we’re trying to do is program and cultivate a unique experience for fans…. Not everybody wants to watch the game in the same way. We’re not choosing one type of fan to serve; we’re serving all fans.”

With the primary focus on creating the most high-quality, robust broadcast possible from the onset, Amazon Prime Video has assembled a team with vast experience in sports media and one that looks to pioneer a new chapter in broadcasting. Al Michaels, a long-time play-by-play announcer who has been with NBC for the last 16 years calling Sunday Night Football with the late-John Madden and Cris Collinsworth, signed a contract to join Amazon Prime Video when his deal with NBC expired. He is excited for the opportunity to broadcast games on a new platform to a large audience of NFL fans, and to continue bringing his knowledge and expertise about the game on the gridiron to fans.

“It wasn’t that long ago when I didn’t know what streaming was,” Michaels said. “….I find it to be exciting in the sense that all of my friends and my kids and my grandkids think this is about the coolest thing in the world.”

Michaels will be joined by Fred Gaudelli, who will serve as executive producer for the broadcasts. Gaudelli previously worked with Michaels at NBC on Sunday Night Football broadcasts in the same role, and will remain with the network on its executive team and work as a contributor on their Sunday night broadcast’s editorial and production efforts. His move to Amazon Prime Video was catalyzed by the immense potential the broadcasts have to differentiate themselves through the functionality and modernization made possible by streaming technologies.

“NFL fans have a very definitive expectation when they turn on the television,” Gaudelli said. “The best people in sports television work on the NFL, and when it comes to prime-time, I think their expectations are even heightened. If you don’t come with a real, quality show, they’re probably not going to come back.”

Amazon Prime Video seems to be equipped with the necessary tools on that end, as it plans to utilize various skycams, super slo-mo cameras and other camera angles to better present the game. Additionally, the service will embed augmented reality into the broadcasts and allow fans to choose alternate camera feeds to experience the game. Interactive fan features through Next-Gen Stats powered by Amazon Web Services, along with X-Ray technology will also be available for viewers during each contest to keep them engaged and entertained each Thursday night.

“If you only want to watch the main broadcast, you’re going to have a telecast that has every technical innovation that football fans love,” Gaudelli said. “….It’s going to be as good, if not better, than any football telecast they’re used to watching.”

“Fred has maybe the most difficult job of all because he’s going to bring in a whole bunch of new production people,” Michaels added. “We’re going to have some stumbles along the way, but I think in short order by just a few games into the season, you’re going to see a show that rivals any football telecast I can think of.”

Emmy-winning analyst Kirk Herbstreit will join Michaels in the booth as the color commentator for broadcasts, a role he will balance with his current obligations on ESPN College GameDay. This role will make him a pioneer of sorts in that he will work on both linear and streaming platforms interchangeably throughout the season. Having both jobs, albeit covering different levels of football, will be a challenge, but he and his colleagues know his knowledge of the former will help enhance his analysis and coverage of the latter.

“With streaming becoming more and more mainstream in the future, I don’t know if that’ll be the future [where] people are going to say: ‘Hey, you can’t do both,” Herbstreit expressed, “but I’m very fortunate to be able to do both. It’s going to be very taxing and tiring, but I’m looking forward to the challenge for sure.”

Joining Michaels and Herbstreit as the broadcast’s sideline reporter is Kaylee Hartung, who is moving from working from ABC News as a reporter to Amazon Prime Video. While Hartung has worked within sports media in the past, most recently as an award-winning sports reporter on ESPN, she says her time in news gives her a broad perspective on the task at hand and how to enrich the broadcasts.

“I think what I learned in being away from sports was that, at the end of the day, the craft is the same,” Hartung said. “It comes down to great storytelling…. Hopefully, I can find some stories to shed light on that others haven’t heard about, and give the players a platform to shine aside from their work on the field.”

Crafting a first-of-its-kind, high-quality NFL broadcast is a challenge in and of itself, and by bringing on Gaudelli and Michaels, Amazon Prime Video is relying on a known quantity that is coming off a historic season in terms of ratings on NBC. Bringing on experienced professionals was of great importance to Donoghue, who recalled eyeing Gaudelli early in talks to executive produce the broadcast, and from there, was able to assemble proven production and announcing teams to bring Amazon squarely into the forefront of sports media.

“We’ve been working around the clock [for] the past few months, and I can truly say that not only is this group incredibly talented, but they are absolutely the best teammates we could hope to have,” Donoghue stated. “It’s a pleasure working alongside them, and we can’t wait to get started.”

Amazon Prime Video’s coverage of the National Football League will begin with a preseason matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans from NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas this Thursday, August 25. The broadcast is set to begin with pregame coverage starting at 7 p.m. EST prior to the 8:15 p.m. EST kickoff. Then on September 15, Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime Video will commence its regular season slate of games with an AFC West matchup between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

“I think a lot of people are curious since it’s such a new template on a new platform as to what’s going to go on,” Michaels said. “[It’s] a big tent, [and] we want everyone to come into it…. Come one, come all!”

Sports TV News

Terry Bradshaw Is Cancer Free

Bradshaw’s candor comes after struggling through a sentence during the September 25th edition of the show, in which Howie Long helped finish his sentence.

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During FOX NFL Sunday, Terry Bradshaw revealed he was diagnosed with two different forms of cancer in the last year.

However, after surgeries and treatments, Bradshaw said he is now cancer free.

The Pro Football Hall of Famer said he was diagnosed with bladder cancer in November of last year and surgery and treatments removed the cancer. Then, in March of this year, a tumor was found on the left-side of his neck. Bradshaw called it a “Merkel cell tumor”, which he had removed.

Bradshaw’s candor comes after struggling through a sentence during the September 25th edition of the show, in which Howie Long helped finish his sentence.

The 74-year-old has worked on FOX NFL Sunday since its inception in 1994. He will be inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame later this year.

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Sports TV News

Scott Van Pelt’s ‘Bad Beats’ Becoming 30-Minute Monthly Show

Van Pelt, alongside “Stanford Steve” Coughlin, recaps the toughest losses suffered by sports gamblers with unconventional final moments and unexpected outcomes as it pertains to the over/under or point spread.

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The popular “Bad Beats” segment from SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt is being turned into a monthly half-hour show on ESPN.

Van Pelt, alongside “Stanford Steve” Coughlin, recaps the toughest losses suffered by sports gamblers with unconventional final moments and unexpected outcomes as it pertains to the over/under or point spread, otherwise known as a “bad beat”. Generally, the segment lasts around 5-10 minutes. ESPN will repurpose the content from the show to package it into a half-hour edition.

The new monthly show debuted yesterday at 5:30 PM ET on ESPN.

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Sports TV News

Sports Media Reacts To Rodney Harrison Concussion Plea On Football Night In America

“This isn’t the first time Harrison has spoken about his own experience with CTE”

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Everyone that covers the NFL has spent the better part of a week talking about Tua Tagovailoa. The Miami Dolphins quarterback’s health has been the subject of speculation after suffering two traumatic hits in the span of five days leading many to wonder if he was sent back onto the field after suffering a concussion.

Questions about the way the Dolphins and the NFL treated the quarterback are being asked all over TV and radio. There have already been consequences on the field too as the independent doctor that examined Tagovailoa has been fired for making “several mistakes” in his evaluation.

Sunday night, Rodney Harrison sounded off about what he saw and his own experience with head injuries. The former Patriots defensive back explained the lingering effects he has dealt with.

“I would implore these young men, don’t go back on the field if you get hurt,” he told Maria Taylor and Tony Dungy on Football Night in America. “Because I don’t want them to have to feel like me and so many other players that had to deal with concussions, whether it’s depression, anxiety, paranoia, broken relationships, not being able to communicate with your spouse. It’s a lot. CTE takes you to a dark place and I want these players to know it’s not worth it. Please take care of yourself.”

One of the most eyebrow raising moments of Harrison’s statement came from his blunt advice to players about the people evaluating them after big hits.

“Don’t depend on the NFL. Don’t depend on anybody. If something’s wrong with your head, report it!”

The clip was shared all over social media and drew praise and commentary from Rodney Harrison’s colleagues.

This isn’t the first time Harrison has spoken about his own experience with CTE. He was on The Dan Patrick Show on Friday to talk about the way Tagovailoa’s injury was handled. He said that he would regularly lie to doctors when he was being checked out after a big hit.

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