NFL's Extends Holiday in search of Prime target -- You!

Nov 19, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA;  Comedian/actor Keegan-Michael Key talks with NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, (right) before the Detroit Lions game against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 19, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Comedian/actor Keegan-Michael Key talks with NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, (right) before the Detroit Lions game against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

While you feasted Thursday. . . .  

The second annual John Madden Thanksgiving Special featured the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49er reconfirming their dominance while the new Detroit Lions disappointed expectant fans by reverting old losing ways as millions of football followers were treated to a three-part holiday drama over trio broadcast networks.

The scores:

Green Bay, 29, Detroit 22

Dallas 45, Washington 10

San Francisco 31, Seattle 13

But wait there’s more and you are a Prime target. Literally.

For the NFL, Thanksgiving was just an appetizer. The league has its sights set on a more important scoreboard – the profit ledger. And this is just the beginning of a far-reaching new plan to reel in profits.  And by far-reaching we mean into your pockets. Have that credit card ready. 

The Business of Football

 Today (Nov. 24, 2023), the $11 billion NFL will team up in a mass media cash grab via a league-first Black Friday game with their new, retail giant partner – Amazon.

With the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins in the spotlight, the NFL can potentially leverage Amazon to hawk merchandise via a streaming broadcast to 80 million U. S.  Prime subscribers and a combine 200 million worldwide

Media and broadcast insiders believe this is part of Amazon’s  $1 billion a year agreement  to exclusively stream “Thursday Night Football” through 2033. Peter King of NBC Sports, and others, report that Amazon bid an additional $70 million-to-$100 million for the Black Friday broadcast.

Successful Strategy?

Based on recent metrics, the Black Friday strategy looks like a smart business play.

It is possible the NFL will dominate your TV screens during the extended Thanksgiving weekend.

To wit:

--Fox Sports set a new TV record by drawing a monster 42 million viewers for its Thanksgiving Day 2022 broadcast of Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants (numbers pending for 2023)

Last year’s Thanksgiving Day telecast between the Dallas Cowboys and Las Vegas Raiders was the most-watched game of the 2021 regular season, averaging 40.8 million viewers. Considering those numbers, look for a packed Thanksgiving Weekend game schedule next year featuring a double or tripleheader on Turkey Day, followed by games on Black Friday, Sunday, and Monday.

Media Blitz

But the NFL won’t have football fans to itself. Already, the Big Ten Conference is planning a pair of Black Friday games for next year. This Friday, there will be over a dozen college football games played across various conferences.

Marie Donoghue, Amazon’s vice president of global sports video, addressed Amazon and the NFL potentially cross-promoting each other during next year’s Black Friday when the shopping frenzy reaches its peak.

“It’s a day when millions and millions visit our site,” she told reporters on a press call. “We will start with the customer first, so they are coming first and foremost to watch a football game, to the extent we can serve them and potentially delight them. When they also have their … shopping, obviously that’s something we’ll work through with the NFL.”

Amazon previously noted its first exclusive stream of “TNF” on Sept. 15 led to more Prime sign-ups during a three-hour period than any other day in its history, including Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Prime Day, which typically takes place in mid-July.

The nation’s biggest online retailer, with 2021 revenue of $469 billion, could boost its already massive sales on Black Friday, drive subs to Amazon Prime, and help Amazon with advertisers on Madison Avenue.

Through the first 10 TNF telecasts this season, Amazon is averaging 9.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen. That’s below its guarantee of 12.5 million viewers to TNF advertisers.

Friday Proving Ground

Big viewership, sales and subscription numbers on number on Black Friday would do wonders. Delivering promised audience guarantees will enable the online giant to avoid paying costly “make-goods,” or free compensatory ads, for audience shortfalls.

During their first exclusive season, the NFL and Amazon have shied away from interactive game features to pull viewers into its retail site, noted the Los Angeles Times. But that could change next year on the one day of the year when consumers are most in a buying mood.

In the future, Amazon.com and NFLShop.com could broadcast exclusive offers throughout the game to their subscribers.

 “Thanksgiving is synonymous with football, and we’re excited to give our fans another day of NFL action during this holiday weekend,” offered Hans Schroeder, chief operating officer for NFL Media “Amazon is uniquely positioned to partner with us for this game as Black Friday is one of the most important days of the year for their business.”

Next year’s Black Friday kickoff is expected at 3 p.m. ET to avoid the long-standing prohibition against the NFL encroaching on high school football games on Friday nights.

As King of TV, the NFL can pretty much have any day it wants. Since the kickoff of the 2022 season, NFL games have generated the Top 38 TV shows and 47 of the Top 50.

This season — because the calendar lines up perfectly, with the holiday falling on a Sunday — the NFL will challenge the NBA with its first-ever Christmas Day triple-header.

But don’t be surprised if the NFL keeps planning games for future Christmas Days and Christmas Eves — even if they fall on odd days of the week.

Over the last two seasons, the league has played Christmas Day games on a Friday and Saturday respectively.

Neither the NFL nor Amazon have confirmed that Black Friday games will continue past 2023, but if all goes well — from a viewership and sales perspective — chances are this new national game window becomes an expanded Thanksgiving tradition.

-- Some data and details from NBC and Front Office Sports

By Frank Cooney, The Sports Xchange

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