Changing The Game

Changing The Game

As we move from the post-Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopfest toward holiday season festivities and New Year’s, we have a potentially game-changing new cultural phenomenon to talk about.  The NFL game on Black Friday that aired on Amazon Prime ushers in an extension of Thanksgiving weekend football or as some families would say, another way to avoid actually talking to each other.  But this is not about the dysfunctional American family nor about the topics that divide us in these difficult times.  

Quite the contrary, this piece is actually about a potential new American tradition that combines the epitome of being a couch potato with the joy of shopping, a happy confluence for many.  Who doesn’t like a deal especially if the best way to get that bargain is by watching another football game over Thanksgiving weekend?  Amazon delivered on the promise of consumer deals by offering limited-time specials during the game in addition to Black Friday bargains.

Some viewers expressed dismay at having to capture the QR codes for the deals while watching the games and some pundits have lauded the resurgence of QR codes.  

What would a POV in a marketing and media newsletter be without some thoughts on how Black Friday NFL football on Amazon may affect industry dynamics?  This venture has a number of business plays at work: change the live sports audience experience; compete with both traditional TV and the streaming giants; increase Black Friday sales; capture high ad revenue from a unique moment; re-shape retail media.

Traditional TV is in the midst of a long term ratings decline that is also impacted by the WGA and SAG strikes, which have led to a scarcity of fresh content.  And with the establishment of Black Friday NFL on Amazon, the traditional TV industry stands to lose a new opportunity to add a ratings franchise position as Amazon expands both its Prime viewership and its cut of video ad dollars.  

From a Nielsen ratings perspective, the Black Friday game garnered a 4.0 rating and 9.61 million viewers, a relatively paltry showing for NFL football and at a rights fee of $100 million. Still, the game performed better than the college football games on TV on Black Friday.  

The price tag also speaks to how important these franchise positions are in today’s video market.  In 2021, Amazon paid $11 billion for the full Thursday night season, the first time the NFL made a deal with a streamer. The $11 billion tab equals almost $59 million for each of the seventeen games in the deal.  The $100 million price tag for the right to the Black Friday game is nearly 70% more expensive.

Much has been said about content expenditures and the need for ad supported tiers to grow revenue for the leading streaming platforms.  With sports being a key content category, and live football continuing to capture high ratings, the sports leagues have every reason to expect their coffers to be lined more.  And in the competition for audiences and subscriber fees, streaming services with special franchises like the new Black Friday NFL game on Amazon prime can gain a competitive advantage. Is Black Friday NFL on Prime the first volley in a new battle of the ‘streaming wars”?

Any number of new shopping norms may evolve.  For now, it does not seem that brick and mortar Black Friday shopping will be impacted.  It may make Black Friday specials on Amazon even more appealing, even engendering FOMO as the live, limited time deals may be more exciting than Amazon’s current flash sales.  Down the line, one can envision that an audience of  shoppers who are not ardent football fans will spend part of their Black Friday shopping time catching the game and exclusive specials. And, of course, there are the manifold ways Amazon’s data may be used to further enhance the shopping-viewing special event experience.