Amazon took center stage in the sports universe Thursday as the tech giant streamed its first exclusive NFL game — and for the most part, it passed the test.
The game streamed without any major hiccups or outages. Some fans reported glitches and poor sound quality, but Amazon’s cloud technology seemed to hold up overall, a baseline requirement for any live sports game being streamed on the internet.
Amazon’s high-profile NFL deal — which will cost a reported $11 billion over the next 11 years — is part of the company’s bid to grow its content library, bolster its advertising arm, and add more Prime subscribers, among other strategies. It’s the latest example of live sports moving online and away from traditional cable TV, with tech giants including Amazon and Apple bidding for lucrative streaming rights.
Thursday wasn’t Amazon’s first rodeo, as the Seattle company has streamed Thursday Night Football games for the past several years, in addition to its other live sports endeavors.
But this was the first exclusive NFL stream, meaning fans — except those in team markets and at some bars, or those using Amazon’s Twitch platform — had to watch via Amazon and have a Prime subscription.
The company is adding its own flair to live sports, including enhanced data and alternative commentary streams. But watching Thursday’s stream really just felt like watching another NFL game, theme music and all — and perhaps that’s good enough for Amazon, for now.
Here are some other key takeaways from Amazon’s big night in Prime time.
Jeff Bezos soaks up the spotlight
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was in attendance at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City to watch the Chiefs take on the Los Angeles Chargers. Bezos posed with the owners of both teams, high-fived some Chiefs fans, wowed players, and watched the game with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Lead play-by-play man Al Michaels jabbed Bezos during the broadcast for apparently not knowing how to play craps.
“One of the great mathematical minds in history can’t figure that out?” Michaels said of Bezos.
Figuring out streaming video
There were plenty of jokes at the expense of viewers who might be new to the notion of television that doesn’t air over a traditional cable or broadcast station. We saw a lot of tweets making fun of parents calling kids looking for help finding the game.
If you’re into multiple camera angles and stats available at the click of a button throughout the game, Amazon’s stream was right for you. In addition to the traditional stream featuring Michaels and color commentator Kirk Herbstreit, Amazon offered a “Prime Vision” feed that included advanced statistics and more — perfect for the NFL geeks.
While some praised the quality of the stream, others voiced their frustration. It seemed to depend on internet connection and device — a much different experience than traditional TV, and one that will become more common as live sports increasingly moves into streaming.
One big ad for Prime
The company certainly used the game as an advertising vehicle for its own products and content — perhaps a bit too much. Many of the in-game advertisements were used to promote Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings show.
Dude, no. And, yes?
Other TV giants have started giving fans alternative commentary when watching live sports online, such as “ManningCast” on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” where ex-pros Peyton and Eli Manning dissect the game on an alternate broadcast.
Amazon is trying the same with the guys from Dude Perfect, which hosted their own stream during Thursday’s game. The viral content creators are definitely intended to appeal to a younger crowd, and some tweets defended the effort as great for kids like these, and these. Others were not so convinced Amazon had found the perfect recipe.