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NFL strikes three-year renewal with Amazon

The National Football League has struck a three-year contract extension with Amazon in which the ecommerce giant will continue to stream “Thursday Night Football” through the 2022 season.

Amazon will again show the 11 “Thursday Night Football” games produced and shown each season by Fox on its Prime Video and Twitch, making the games available to more than 150 million paid Prime members worldwide and in more than 200 countries and territories.

The deal, however, also includes a new element in which Amazon will gain exclusive rights to one late-season Saturday game in the 2020 season that will also be shown on Prime Video and Twitch.

The game will also be made available on free, over-the-air television in the participating teams’ home markets, in keeping with the league’s long-standing policy to make games available in that fashion. But the move marks a notable step toward a newer, digitally focused player in the media space such as Amazon getting exclusive rights to live NFL games.

The late-season Saturday NFL games have become increasingly common in recent years as the league has taken advantage of more open December dates between the end of the college football regular season and start of that entity’s bowl season.

“Extending this partnership around ‘Thursday Night Football’ continues our critical mission of delivering NFL games to as many fans in as many ways as possible both in the United States and around the world,” said Brian Rolapp, NFL chief media and business officer.

Amazon has live streamed the “Thursday Night Football” games since 2017, first as a one-year test, and then in a two-year renewal covering the 2018-19 NFL seasons.

Back in 2015, Yahoo had exclusive rights to a midseason Buffalo Bills-Jacksonville Jaguars game from London, with the same local-market broadcast provisions. The Amazon exclusive game in 2020 is somewhat similar in execution, but remains part of a much larger rights package.

“We are thrilled to renew our ‘Thursday Night Football’ deal with the NFL, and are excited to expand our relationship to include exclusive global streaming rights to an additional regular season game in 2020,” said Marie Donoghue, Amazon vice president of global sports video.

Financial terms were not disclosed. The prior two-year pact was reportedly worth $65m per year, and the number escalates significantly in the new agreement, according to industry sources, with the new game inventory included. The timing of the deal also lines up with Fox’s linear TV rights for “Thursday Night Football,” which also run through 2022.

The Amazon renewal also marks a continued run of dealmaking despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Late last month, the league struck deal with NBC and CBS for newly created Wild Card games as part of an expanded postseason that will begin this coming season.

It is not known what alterations will be needed to the 2020 NFL schedule due to the public health crisis. The league intends to play as normal, and a release of the upcoming schedule is expected early next month. But as the entire sports industry grapples with the logistics of resuming play, the timetables of most leagues remain uncertain at best.