Amazon To Stream Its First NFL Playoff Game In January In Split With ViacomCBS

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry knocks down Buffalo Bills cornerback Josh Norman on Tuesday. AP Photo/Wade Payne

Amazon Prime Video is stepping up its relationship with the NFL, agreeing to a deal to stream a playoff game in January.

The wild-card game is being broadcast on CBS and Nickelodeon and ViacomCBS also has rights to stream it on CBS All Access, which by then will be known as Paramount+.

Earlier this year, Amazon signed a three-year renewal of its deal to stream 11 Thursday Night Football games per season. While that deal falls in the range of $75 million, playoff properties are worth significantly more.

The arrangement comes as the NFL is negotiating with existing rights holders Disney, Fox, NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS as major contracts come up for renewal in 2021 and 2022. Amazon is among several tech companies with an interest in sports who could also mount bids for NFL rights. The tech giant has streamed Thursday night NFL games for the past couple of years and has also inked deals in the UK for Premier League soccer and U.S. Open tennis. The company last year joined with the New York Yankees, Sinclair Broadcast Group and private equity investors to take over the YES network, which had been controlled by 21st Century Fox.

NFL ratings have dipped slightly in 2020 as election coverage dominates the airwaves, but football telecasts still occupy most of the Nielsen rankings of most-viewed shows. According to a Vizio survey of 16 million smart TVs, NFL programming accounted for more than 5% of all TV viewing in the month of September. Unlike the NBA and NHL, which completed their “bubble” seasons with few COVID-19 issues, the league has battled through several virus outbreaks, postponing several games and doing away with the preseason. CBS this week aired a game in a highly unusual slot — Tuesday night — due to one such postponement.

Streaming, as it is across the rest of the media landscape, is looming large in live sports. NBCUniversal’s Peacock, which launched nationally in July, is going to have an NFL playoff game. HBO Max, which WarnerMedia launched in May, is aiming to add live sports in 2021. Paramount+, which began as CBS All Access in 2015, has a significant sports portfolio, with NFL games and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and other headline events. ESPN, whose streaming service is an increasing priority of Disney, is also likely to put streaming front and center in its renewal efforts with the NFL.

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