Amazon’s $10 billion NFL deal is big — and an indication that sports activities is staying on TV for some time longer

Tom Brady within the 2021 Tremendous Bowl. | Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire through Getty Photographs

The NFL loves TV and TV loves the NFL.

It’s lastly occurred. An enormous tech firm is paying actually huge {dollars} for unique rights to point out big-time sports activities: Amazon is paying a reported $10 billion over 10 years to point out NFL video games on Thursday nights.

However Amazon’s enormous deal — by far the largest transfer by a tech firm into stay sports activities — additionally illustrates how intently intertwined big-time sports activities is with conventional TV.

That’s as a result of the remainder of the offers the NFL formally introduced immediately look an entire lot just like the offers the NFL has performed for years: The overwhelming majority of its video games will run on the normal TV networks owned by Fox, Disney, ViacomCBS, and NBCUniversal. That’s: Whereas we’ve been watching viewing habits change over time — fairly slowly at first after which in a short time, as conventional TV rankings have plummeted — each the NFL and the massive TV networks wish to proceed enterprise as standard.

And there are good causes for that stasis — or symbiosis. TV viewing has been declining for years, however NFL video games stay the most well-liked programming on TV, by an extended shot. Seven of the highest 10 reveals on TV in 2020 had been NFL video games. If the TV networks don’t have professional soccer, their decline will get very steep, in a short time.

The NFL, in the meantime, is betting that despite the fact that a few of its viewers are leaving for the likes of Xbox and TikTok, its finest likelihood to get essentially the most eyeballs on its video games is by conserving them on old school TV.

It’s price noting that the entire new offers permit the TV guys to additionally put the video games on their streaming platforms, like NBCUniversal’s Peacock and Disney’s ESPN+. However at their coronary heart, these are very a lot TV offers, not digital offers.

The Amazon deal, in the meantime, actually is a digital deal. In contrast to different strikes Amazon (and Twitter earlier than it) has made to point out NFL video games, it is a dedication to point out 15 video games a season, solely for Amazon Prime subscribers in the US. Beforehand, Amazon has merely had streaming rights to video games that had been already broadcast on conventional TV networks like Fox and CBS. (The NFL notes that individuals who stay in every of the crew’s house markets will nonetheless have the ability to watch the video games on conventional TV with out utilizing Amazon Prime.)

However a number of media observers have for years been assuming that huge tech firms could be muscling into sports activities. It’s fascinating that it’s solely occurred now — and that it might not be occurring once more, in any important approach — for a very long time. The opposite TV offers the NFL introduced on Thursday will go for 11 years, which means there’s no approach for a Google or an Apple to get into this once more, and there aren’t some other big-time sports activities rights accessible for a while. (The one wrinkle right here is the Sunday Ticket package deal, which supplies subscribers entry to each recreation within the league, and is at the moment owned by AT&T’s DirecTV; that deal comes up in a pair years and will positively be accessible for a tech participant.)

However greater than that, it’s not a foregone conclusion that the remainder of huge tech thinks it ought to be bidding on sports activities offers, interval.

Only a few years in the past, Fb bid $600 million in an unsuccessful effort to get the rights to Indian cricket matches, and later picked up rights to point out some professional soccer video games in Latin America; it was reportedly prepared to spend “billions” for different sports activities rights.

However this month, Fb introduced that it wasn’t making an attempt to get the rights to NFL video games — and actually didn’t wish to spend cash on any sports activities rights in any respect. As an alternative, it advised in an open letter to sports activities executives, Fb want to present video games free of charge.

No takers, to date. And why would they? If the massive TV guys are going to maintain paying huge cash for large sports activities, the sports activities guys will maintain taking their checks. Now they’re simply including Amazon’s $10 billion to their pile.

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