NFL's exclusive partnership with Amazon

May 27, 2021

What the NFL's exclusive partnership with Amazon reveals about the company's college football intentions

The NFL announced a new media rights arrangement with numerous networks and distributors two months ago, reportedly worth more than $100 billion over ten years.

Amazon paid $1 billion per year for the exclusive rights to the Thursday Night Football package. Amazon's move reverberated throughout college sports, where several Power Five conferences are ready to renegotiate their media rights contracts, hoping that big tech will join them at the table.

This is especially true in the Pac-12, where media money and exposure fall short of expectations, and the broader plan is scrutinised. Commissioner Larry Scott has put the future ahead of the present, predicting that demand will propel a significant price hike when the next contract cycle begins in 2024.

“By the time our rights come up,” Scott said two years ago, “we are predicting that not only will streaming services be important bidders for our rights, but there are going to be other players — some of the technology companies, and others that we can’t even name today, are going to be bidding for our rights.”

Because of its market size ($1.6 trillion) and demonstrated interest in distributing live sports, Amazon seemed to stand out among all of the digital businesses. In 2017, the firm began streaming the NFL's Thursday Night Football (TNF) package, although only as a supplement to FOX, NBC, and the NFL Network.

“Anyone bidding for the rights has to think how to monetize the deal, and Amazon has unique ways to monetize," Desser explained.

“They have a subscription service through Prime. They have Amazon direct-to-consumer sales. They have mined every piece of data through the NFL Thursday night broadcasts.” No other digital firm has that information or the business plan to make the most of it.

In 2019, the Pac-12 held talks with Apple, however it's unclear whether the world's wealthiest company contacted out — or if the Pac-12 requested the meeting. In any case, the conversations never progressed above the preliminary level.