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Jay Marine: Amazon Prime Video is ‘Playing the Long Game’ with ‘Thursday Night Football’

“More people are going to stream next year – all content, not just sports – than the year before.”

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Jay Marine
Courtesy: Amazon Prime Video

As Amazon Prime Video enters the second year of its Thursday Night Football broadcasts, the company remains dedicated to its growth. The company acquired the coveted broadcast property one year early after FOX Sports exited its contract as part of the league’s new 11-year media rights deal worth over $10 billion annually. Al Michaels, Kirk Herbstreit and Kaylee Hartung comprised the primary commentary team and are all expected to return in the second season of games after averaging 9.58 million viewers last year, according to Nielsen Media Research.

When combined with Amazon’s internal metrics, the number increases to 11.3 million viewers. Although the total viewership number was down from the 2021 season when games were presented on FOX and simulcast on NFL Network, the streaming platform is excited to watch the continued progression of the franchise.

“We’re playing the long game; this is an 11-year deal,” Jay Marine, Global Head of Sports at Amazon Prime Video, said at CNBC and Boardroom’s inaugural Game Plan sports business conference on Tuesday. “One thing at Amazon – we’re willing to invest for the long term. Thursday Night [Football] never really had a home – it’s been on multiple places – so our goal is to build a franchise, and a franchise that’s durable and extremely valuable in year four, five, 10 and 11.”

Out of the 11 million viewers, 22% of them were between the ages of 18-34, an improvement from the season prior. The median age of streaming viewers was 47 years old, which is seven years younger than the average median age of consumers watching National Football League games on linear television. Thursday Night Football also attained the highest ratings in the age 18-34 and 18-49 demographics, showcasing the power of the over-the-top (OTT) media platform and the NFL.

“We’re extremely excited about the first year of Thursday Night Football,” Marine said. “It was really the first new broadcaster the NFL has had in over 20 years, and the bar was so high because of great companies like ESPN [and] NBC Sports. I’m most proud of the production quality we put on air.”

Amazon Prime Video paid approximately $100 million for the rights to the first-ever NFL Black Friday game in a matchup between the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets. Additionally, Thursday Night Football became the third national property to be granted flex scheduling abilities, allowing it to claim two games per season between Week 13 and Week 17 with 28 days’ notice. Lead play-by-play announcer Al Michaels told Barrett Sports Media that he hopes the platform will not have to use it, instead thinking that its schedule will be good enough.

“I think it’s a testament to the NFL’s trust in us to help launch a new NFL holiday and a new tradition, and Black Friday’s perfect for us; [it is] obviously the biggest shopping day of the year,” Marine said. “So we’re putting everything against that this year, and it’s going to be a great game.”

Despite some pundits claiming the ratings came up short from where Amazon Prime Video was projected to land, the company is satisfied with the growth trajectory of its broadcasts. After all, more people are streaming content than ever before, as Nielsen’s Media Gauge report conveyed that 39% of television consumption takes place through this approach. Globally, the streaming market is expected to burgeon to $1.9 trillion by 2030 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.3%.

“The macrotrends are going in our favor,” Marine said. “More people are going to stream next year – all content, not just sports – than the year before. The year after that, more people. You can debate the rate of change, but you can’t debate the macro-trajectory, so when you see a macrotrend like that, you can invest a lot because you know that investment’s going to pay off in the long term.”

Aside from football, Amazon Prime Video is also interested in expanding its partnership with the National Basketball Association. The two entities are currently in a partnership where the streaming platform airs up to four games per week in Brazil, while having the ability to broadcast up to 24 playoff games. Amazon Prime Video also announced an exclusive media rights deal with Overtime Elite for its live basketball games, proof of further penetration into the space. While it remains unknown whether or not Amazon Prime Video will make a bid for a share of the NBA media rights, Marine did acknowledge that it will approach its future planning aggressively, but with a sense of rationale.

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Rob Manfred: Diamond Sports Group Has ‘No Plan at This Point’

“They don’t have a deal with the NBA, they don’t have a deal with the NHL, and they don’t have a deal with us.”

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Rob Manfred
Courtesy: Jonathan Dyer, USA TODAY Sports

Diamond Sports Group recently reached a deal for carriage renewal with FuboTV, securing distribution of the Bally Sports-branded regional sports networks through the platform. In recent months, Diamond Sports Group has completed carriage renewals with Charter, Cox and DirecTV, but it has still been unable to reach an agreement with Comcast, which is said to provide 80% of the company’s revenue. As Diamond Sports Group seeks to enter Ch. 11 bankruptcy, there has been concern addressed by Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League pertaining to the viability of the company.

The Sinclair subsidiary was approved for $450 million in debtor-in-possession finance as it seeks to actualize a proposed restructuring. The allocation of such remuneration will be $350 million to pay its first-lien debt holders. Additional funds therein will be transferred the remainder to the company balance sheet. Under the terms of the proposed restructuring agreement, Diamond would continue to broadcast regional games while also accepting investment from Amazon, which agreed to pay $115 million in convertible notes upon the conclusion of the bankruptcy. Junior creditors would then assume operations of the subsidiary.

On Thursday, Diamond Sports Group filed a motion with the Houston bankruptcy court overseeing the case to propose a 41-day extension for the confirmation hearing. Although it was not listed in the document, granting such modifications would presumably allow more time for Diamond and Comcast to try and reach terms on an agreement. If the alteration is granted, Diamond’s confirmation hearing would take place on Monday, July 29. The company is also in the process of trying to negotiate deals with the NBA and NHL.

Following the conclusion of an MLB owners’ meeting in New York, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed the ambiguity surrounding the future of Diamond Sports Group. Bally Sports-branded regional sports networks have not been broadcast by Comcast since the end of April, something MLB counsel James Bromley called “devastating” with several teams “facing substantial problems” as a result.

Manfred is not yet sure about the league’s support pertaining to Diamond Sports Group’s reorganization plan, but he still expects the company to carry regional games for the 12 MLB teams for which it has rights through the conclusion of the 2024 season. Major League Baseball continues to produce and disseminate games for the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks as it did last summer, along with the Colorado Rockies after AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain ceased operations at the end of last year.

“It’s hard to comment on whether we’re going to object or not because there is no plan at this point,” Manfred said. “Their whole plan is, you know, ‘We’re going to get deals with distributors…. We’re going to continue with the other leagues.’ They don’t have a deal with the NBA, they don’t have a deal with the NHL, and they don’t have a deal with us.”

MLB looks to develop its own streaming platform and has reportedly had discussions about nationalizing television rights for games. In testimony last year, Manfred recalled a meeting between him and Sinclair Broadcast Group executive chairman David Smith. Smith asked Manfred to grant the company direct-to-consumer broadcast rights to bolster its Bally Sports Plus app, to which Manfred replied that it would not happen, and that people cannot always get what they want. In response, Smith said that he would squeeze clubs to diminish rights fees to make sure he stayed profitable in the RSN business. If they did not agree to that, he explained that he would put Diamond Sports Group into bankruptcy and then selectively reject contracts.

“Right now we’re really focused on the strategic part,” Manfred said. “How is it that we respond to the changes in the local media environment in a way that increases our reach and fan access to our games? We’d like to get into a model where whether you’re a dinosaur cable person like I am or a digital person, there is a frictionless opportunity to watch the game that you want to watch.”

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Erin Andrews: Tom Brady Will Be ‘Amazing’ as ‘NFL on FOX’ Broadcaster

“Everybody’s worried about the commentating. I’m just like, ‘The guy’s skin. I have to deal with this, him being on my crew.’”

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Tom Brady
Courtesy: Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Although the start of the National Football League regular season schedule of games is still several months away, there is palpable anticipation and excitement towards the proceedings. The lead broadcast crew for the NFL on FOX broadcast will include seven-time Super Bowl champion and former NFL quarterback Tom Brady as the color commentator alongside play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt and reporters Erin Andrews and Tom Rinaldi. At the same time, Andrews is continuing her podcast, Calm Down with Erin and Charissa, with co-host and FOX Sports colleague Charissa Thompson on the iHeart Podcast Network. Both Andrews and Thompson appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on NBC Thursday night to discuss the podcast and how the idea came about.

Thompson explained that she remembers being nervous working on her first day as a member of the FOX Sports team. As she was walking through the door on campus, she remembers Andrews running out to give her a hug and inform her that she would be there for her for anything she needed. When the pandemic hit, Andrews remembered thinking that everyone had a podcast and that they should try to do it. Since launching the show, it has rapidly grown with candid conversation, celebrity interviews and live events.

“You’re crushing it,” Fallon said. “It’s so great; it’s so fun to listen to you guys. I’ve heard you with, I think Derek Jeter was one of those [guests].”

Fallon wanted to know what Andrews and Thompson thought about having Brady join the FOX Sports broadcast team for the upcoming NFL season, which will culminate with Super Bowl LIX from Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, La. Andrews replied by stating that they have spoken to him in person and then asked Fallon if he had ever been around him, to which he replied that he had. Fallon articulated that Brady is good at everything, bringing up being good looking and his skill in golf as two examples, something that he finds annoying.

“And that’s the biggest thing,” Andrews said. “Everybody’s worried about the commentating. I’m just like, ‘The guy’s skin. I have to deal with this, him being on my crew.’ I know because we talk about it a lot on our podcast.”

Andrews later shared that she believes Brady will be amazing in the broadcast booth for his inaugural season, beginning with his debut on Sunday, Sept. 8 when the Dallas Cowboys face the Cleveland Browns at 4:25 p.m. EST. The schedule for games televised by FOX Sports includes several marquee NFC teams throughout the year, along with a rivalry game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers in late December.

“His résumé supports that he’s great at everything he does,” Thompson said, “so why would this be any different?”

Fallon reminisced on attending a basketball game with Brady in the past, recollecting that Brady knew the game was over despite there being time left. It turned out that Brady was correct, being able to decipher the score and probability that the opponent would come back from the deficit. Brady’s adept sports knowledge and ability to discuss the nuances of the game is a sentiment understood and concurred by Andrews and Thompson.

“I’ve sat with him [at] lunch before and he’s been telling stories about his career, and it’s like stuff we just die for,” Andrews said. “Love the inside information, right, and you’re hearing all the stuff you just always wanted to know, and my knee was just bouncing and bouncing and bouncing.”

“And then you get Julian Edelman, who’s on the show I host with him, and Rob Gronkowski,” Thompson added. “You get those three together – the three amigos – hilarity ensues.”

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Jim Ross Hospitalized, Will Miss AEW Double or Nothing

He has been dealing with the flu, raised heart enzymes and trouble breathing.

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Photo of AEW announcer Jim Ross
Courtesy: All Elite Wrestling

Legendary wrestling announcer Jim Ross will miss this weekend’s AEW pay-per-view event, Double or Nothing in Las Vegas as he was hospitalized on Thursday with shortness of breath. Ross said on his X account that he had to make an unexpected visit to the ER. He told Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer he has been dealing with the flu, raised heart enzymes and trouble breathing. Meltzer said Ross expects to be fine within a few days.

Ross, 72, has been making limited appearances for AEW of late and recently has only been appearing on pay-per-views. He recently signed a one-year contract to remain with AEW.

Ross has had a few medical issues over the last few years which have forced him to miss time. In 2021 he was treated for skin cancer and about a year ago a fall led to him stepping away for a bit.

Ross recently had a new book published, Business Is About to Pick Up! which chronicles 50 of his best calls from his 5-decade career in the wrestling business. Ross also hosts a weekly podcast, Grilling JR.

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