Analysis: Amazon Prime Video gets a solid first slate from the NFL. The Buccaneers will face the Ravens on October 27
A defensive coordinator trying to put together a game plan to stop Justin Herbert or Patrick Mahomes has an easier task than the NFL trying to put together the Thursday Night Football schedule.
Trying to set up intriguing matchups, only four teams can play multiple Thursday games, and there are considerations of who and where the teams are playing the previous week due to the short deadline.
Add to that a new television partner paying $1.2 billion per season to broadcast these games for 11 years, and the pressure is even greater.
Yet, despite all the obstacles. Amazon Prime Video is thrilled with its slate of games for its first season as the exclusive carrier of “Thursday Night Football.” The Los Angeles Chargers-Kansas City Chiefs game on September 15 was announced two weeks ago, while the remaining 14 games were announced Thursday as part of the full rollout of the NFL’s regular season schedule.
“We are very excited. We believe we have matches not to be missed. A lot of them are about the game,” said Marie Donoghue, Amazon’s vice president for Global Sports Video.
Donoghue said Amazon made its first official pitch to the league’s broadcast service the week before the Super Bowl to let them know their focus and priorities. As for all the networks, the discussions continued until the establishment of the final calendar.
Even though Amazon is the league’s first new broadcast partner since Fox in 1994, Donoghue knows the process as a senior vice president at ESPN for 19 years. Jeffrey Kaiser, head of US sports programming at Amazon, worked for NFL Network for five years.
Hans Schroeder, the executive vice president of NFL Media, also noted there was a bit of familiarity with Amazon because they partnered with CBS, Fox and NFL Network on a tri-cast model for games. Thursday night for five seasons.
Still, there was a little “getting to know you” period for both parties.
“There are a lot of things that everyone experienced for the first time, but there was great collaboration and cooperation between the teams,” he said. “I think we’ve put ourselves in a really good position for a strong TNF launch.”
The package starts strong. After Chargers-Chiefs, Pittsburgh travels to Cleveland on Sept. 22 in what could be a matchup between Steelers first-round pick Kenny Pickett and DeShaun Watson of the Browns, who was acquired in a mega-trade with Houston.
On Sept. 29, it’s a clash of the 2020 first-round quarterback picks when Miami and Tua Tagovailoa travel to Cincinnati to face the defending AFC champion Bengals and Joe Burrow. The following week saw two signal callers in new locations with Indianapolis’ Matt Ryan visiting Denver and Russell Wilson.
“You really have a long, solid track of great games that hopefully help build that behavior and educate customers that Thursdays are now on Amazon,” Schroeder said.
The headline match on the schedule is Oct. 27 and Game 2 between Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady. Other games of note are Tennessee at Green Bay (November 17), Buffalo at New England (December 1), Las Vegas at Los Angeles Rams (December 8) and Dallas at Tennessee (December 29).
“I was pleasantly surprised. I think there are some real major attractions in this program,” executive producer Fred Gaudelli said. “The quarterback game is so critical because a good quarterback game quarterback usually means good competitive football I did Brady vs. Jackson when Brady was with New England a few years ago (on Sunday Night Football) It’s a great quarterback game just because of the contrasting styles.
Each team will play Thursday, but the New York Giants, Minnesota and Detroit will not appear on the Amazon package. All three play Thanksgiving. Buffalo and New England also play Thanksgiving before meeting next week.
As with all league partners, Amazon will also host a preseason game when San Francisco takes on Houston on August 25.
Donohue and Schroeder said there will be plenty of opportunities to let people know where and how to log into games. They will also be available on stations in participating teams’ markets, which is the same practice when on ESPN and NFL Network.
While Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit were announced as the broadcast team, with Tony Gonzalez as an analyst on his pre-game, half-time and post-game broadcasts, the process of building up the rest of the team continues. Gaudelli said they are finalizing who will be the secondary reporter.
Gaudelli spent a few days earlier this month meeting with Amazon executives in Los Angeles, and said putting everything together continues to move forward, even though the first game is three months away.
“I can tell you that people are going to have options and improvements that they haven’t had with NFL games. And, for someone like me who’s been in this business for a while, that’s just a great discharge of energy,” he said.
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