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Amazon extends its deal to stream NFL games, even with next season in doubt

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With the NFL season still in doubt, Amazon has extended its deal with the NFL to live stream Thursday Night Football games for the 2020, 2021, and 2022 seasons. Yahoo Finance’s Dan Roberts shares the details.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: Yeah, let's switch gears here. Amazon is staying all in on the NFL, despite uncertainty on when sports will resume. Yahoo Finance Editor at large Dan Roberts joins us now. Dan, Amazon is still clearly bullish on the NFL, judging by this story you just broke.

DAN ROBERTS: Yeah, absolutely, Brian. And look at the fact that 15.6 million people tuned in for the first night of the NFL draft last week when the Hall of Fame was virtual. I mean, it was sort of the most cobbled together draft the league has had to have, and yet, record numbers. In fact, overall, over the course of the three days, it was the most watched draft ever, which just shows you how starving people are for sports and specifically, for the NFL.

So yes, the start of the upcoming season is in some doubt, I think. But, you know, whether and when it comes back, Amazon knows that it's going to be here. I think that you can expect the ratings, once the NFL does return, to be enormous. So Amazon today announcing it has extended its deal for three more seasons to stream Thursday Night Football games to Amazon Prime subscribers.

So the previous deal was for 11 of those games. Now these are Thursday night games that are broadcast on Fox, but are also streamed live on Amazon. What's new in the deal is a 12-game that will be later in the season and won't be on, on Thursday. This will be a Saturday game. And Amazon, as well as Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, will get the exclusive national broadcast.

So that game, on a Saturday later in the regular season, will be shown in the local markets, but not broadcast nationally. It will be exclusive to Amazon. And the figures here are not being shared, but you can imagine that it's certainly for more money than last time around, which was reported to be $130 million for two seasons, so about $65 million per season. Amazon extending for three seasons. Now what's sweet for Amazon, it also gets to sell ads against these streams.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Yeah, Dan, I was just going to talk about those ads. This has got to be welcome news for the advertisers and for Amazon because now they actually have a place to put their message. Do you expect spending there to be robust as these advertisers are just so hungry for a place to advertise at this point?

DAN ROBERTS: Well, advertising with sports in general is a really interesting subject right now, Alexis, because obviously there is no sports happening. And so we hear a lot about, you know, the financial damage there is going to be to broadcasters and to media companies.

There were reports earlier this week that some cable companies are asking ESPN for their rights fees back because there are no sports being shown. Now we'll see what happens there because ESPN has a couple of things it can say back to that. I mean, the last dance was done very well. There was the draft.

But I think with NFL specifically, it's kind of the last gig in town in terms of live TV. That was true before coronavirus. Once we get through this time, I think it'll be even more true. And, you know, remember when the NFL had those two seasons in a row of declining ratings. That feels like ancient history. That was 2016 and 2017 because now, the last two seasons in a row, ratings have risen 5%.

So whenever it is that the NFL returns, I do think that advertisers will be happy to spend, to advertise there. It's kind of the last remaining guarantee of eyeballs.

BRIAN SOZZI: Hey, Dan, any sense on how much this deal cost Amazon?

DAN ROBERTS: It's not clear, Brian, but as I was saying before, you can bet that it is definitely for significantly more than the last time around. The last time, the deal was reported at $65 million per season for Amazon. Now it's for three seasons. It's got to be more than that.

And I think that, in itself, is really interesting because we're in a time when, A, weird timing knows where it's happening, and we're waiting for sports to return. But B, you know, there's really no more kind of live television guarantees, except for the NFL. I mean, how much have we been talking-- and we'll talk again later in this show-- about the success that Universal just had with releasing "Trolls" straight to rental-- you know, $100 million in rental sales.

Some people are saying that this represents the end of movie theaters. I think that goes too far. But point being, I don't think anything on television is really a guarantee anymore, except for something like the NFL. I mean, even live awards shows really aren't. People just watch clips the next day on Twitter. And so I think this deal is probably worth a lot to Amazon.

BRIAN SOZZI: All right, Dan Roberts, good story. Talk to you soon.