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Amazon’s first live NFL game beats Twitter audience – but TV viewing still dominates

Amazon's promo for its Thursday Night Football debut, which drew a higher audience than Twitter's broadcasts

Amazon’s first live NFL game was watched by an average of 372,000 viewers on Thursday night, beating Twitter’s figures from last season but still well down on TV.

The streaming audience for Green Bay Packers’ 35-14 victory over the Chicago Bears was dwarfed by the 14.6 million viewers who tuned in on television.

But Amazon’s first foray into Thursday night football did see an improvement on the average 266,000 viewers who watched Twitter’s streams in the same slot last season.

And it was up on the 243,000 who watched Twitter’s first Thursday night game, an albeit less appealing matchup between the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills.

The disparity between the tech firms’ figures is interesting given that Twitter made Thursday night football available for free to its entire userbase whereas Amazon’s broadcast was only available to subscribers of its Prime Video pay service.

But as that group is said to number in the region of 85 million worldwide, the figure of 372,000 viewers who stuck with the game for an average of 55 minutes still marks only a small fraction of Amazon’s overall subscriber base.

So whether the viewing figures will be seen as value for money by Amazon, which paid more than $50m to beat Twitter to the rights and show 11 Thursday night games this season, remains to be seen.

Amazon’s investment in NFL is heralded by some as signifying a changing of the guard in the sports broadcasting space, and the company has been tipped by Manchester United vice-chairman Ed Woodward to be in the mix for the next round of Premier League rights bidding.

But as these figures attest, the streamers still have some way to go to compete with traditional broadcasters. Alexandra Willis, head of digital at Wimbledon tennis, summed up the mood of rights holders in our investigation into the sports rights shakeup in August, when she said that the competition’s “streaming numbers are up… but that still represents a fraction of the linear audience”.

Amazon trailed its NFL debut with an ad by CP+B LA spoofing nature films, bringing a literal interpretation to Bears versus Packers.