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Amazon’s ‘Thursday Night Football’ Debut Did Better Than Everyone Thought

The stream wasn't flawless, but these numbers show streaming can be a contender in sports.

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 15: Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (25) leaps when introduced before an NFL game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs on September 15, 2022 at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO.  Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Amazon Prime Video’s “Thursday Night Football” debut jumped in ratings from the prior year.

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Amazon Prime Video’s “Thursday Night Football” debut performed better in ratings than you might assume, given the online griping.

The game averaged 13 million total viewers, according to Nielsen’s national TV ratings. That’s a win; a person with knowledge of the negotiations told IndieWire that Amazon guaranteed advertisers 12.6 million viewers. Add in Amazon’s own first-party measurement metrics if you’d like and that number grows to 15.3 million viewers across multiple platforms.

The Nielsen-only tally is 47 percent better than last year’s Week 2 “Thursday Night Football” game, which aired solely on the NFL Network outside of local markets.

It helped, of course, that Prime Video’s exclusive debut was a tight game with the Kansas City Chiefs outlasti ng the Los Angeles Chargers 27-24. The AFC West matchup averaged a 5.0 rating among adults 18-49, which was 9 percent better than last year’s full-season average across numerous networks.

The “Thursday Night Football” premiere was, by a large margin, watched more than any broadcast or cable TV show that same evening. “Young Sheldon” on CBS was No. 2 with *just* 3.5 million total viewers. On a Nielsen to Nielsen basis, we’re talking about an advantage of nearly 10 million viewers.

Chargers-Chiefs viewers were also younger than usual; streaming tends to do that. “Thursday Night Football” on Prime Video delivered an audience seven years younger than the linear NFL audience  (median age 46 vs. 53). The audience was eight years younger than last year’s full-season average TNF audience (median age 54; “Thursday Night Football” was tri-cast on Fox, NFL Network, and Prime Video).

Here’s how Amazon describes its own first-party measurement, which accounted for its extra 2.3 million viewers: “Amazon aggregates direct-viewing data from the millions of devices and accounts watching in order to provide a clear and comprehensive understanding of viewership across Amazon’s channels.” The company then adds in Nielsen numbers to get to its own grand total.

Ahead of the release of these numbers, Jay Marine, global head of sports for Prime Video, sent the below to employees via email. IndieWire obtained a copy of the memo; italics are ours, bolding is all his.

On Thursday night, we made history by delivering the first regular season game in our groundbreaking 11-year agreement with the NFL. And by every measure, “Thursday Night Football” on Prime Video was a resounding success. From the stellar production of the game, to the quality of the stream customers watched at home, Prime Video proved we are among the very best in sports media. 

To put it in context, let me share some of the results. Our first exclusive TNF broadcast delivered the most watched night of primetime in the U.S. in the history of Prime Video. This is a massive achievement. During our TNF broadcast, we also saw the biggest three hours for U.S. Prime sign ups ever in the history of Amazon – including Prime Day, Cyber Monday, and Black Friday. And while we’re still waiting for official Nielsen ratings, our measurement shows that the audience numbers exceeded all of our expectations for viewership. This was also a huge technical achievement – our tech and product teams rose to the challenge and delivered a fantastic streaming experience to our millions of viewers.

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