Dec 21, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Thursday Night Football Amazon Prime play-by-play announcer Al Michaels during the game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL ratings soar 24 percent for Amazon’s ‘TNF’ slate

In its second season as the exclusive streaming platform for the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” broadcasts, Amazon saw a 24 percent gain in viewership in 2023 over its first season.

In 2022, Amazon drew an average of 9.58 million viewers for “TNF,” but that number elevated significantly to 11.86 million viewers this season.

In comparison, Fox and the NFL Network drew 16.2 million viewers for Thursday night games in 2021. CBS, NBC and Fox on Sundays, along with ESPN/ABC on Mondays, draw more than 20 million viewers weekly.

Though streaming is thought to be more popular with younger people, Amazon’s overall audience – a 14 percent increase from 2022 — grew at a higher rate than the 18-34 demographic for “TNF.”

–Field Level Media

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) might be healthy enough to play Thursday against the Lions (file photo). Mandatory Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

Packers, Lions thinned by injuries in fight for division lead

Fighting for first place in the NFC North, the Packers and Lions renew acquaintances in Green Bay on Thursday night with Detroit determined to beat its rival for the fourth consecutive time.

“Certainly you want these more, because they’re for the division,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “These count. They have a significant impact on being a division winner.”

The Packers last beat the Lions in Week 2 of the 2021 season. Detroit ushered in the Jordan Love era by beating Aaron Rodgers in the regular-season finale at Lambeau Field last season (20-16).

“I know what they’re all about,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “It’s a tough, gritty team.”

Campbell started the week with a sleepover in his own office Sunday night, burying the idea of enjoying the win over the Atlanta Falcons for 24 hours. But he gets goosebumps thinking about the atmosphere that awaits the Lions, whose season-ending win in January also was in primetime.

“I told the rookies yesterday, ‘Get ready to live, man. This is good stuff here. These are the things that you’ll never forget when you’re done playing,’” Campbell said.

Love rallied the Packers from a 17-point deficit entering the fourth quarter to beat the New Orleans Saints, 18-17, in his first home start last week.

Short-week scenarios involving health are again relevant on either side.

Lions left tackle Taylor Decker plans to attempt to play Thursday with a high-ankle sprain that kept him out the past two games. He was one of four offensive linemen on the injury report Monday.

If Decker holds up, right tackle Penei Sewell can return to his usual position.

Even if the front five isn’t whole, Campbell expects pass protection in front of Jared Goff to be better and the running game to make progress. After rushing for 2,179 yards last season, Detroit is averaging a full yard less per carry — 3.6 yards and 24th in the NFL — through three games in 2023.

Green Bay’s ground game is down as well (3.43 yards per carry ranks 26th), denting the Packers’ play-action passing attack. Injuries to the line and starting running backs David Montgomery (Lions) and Aaron Jones (Packers) created shuffling and a negative domino effect.

Jones and purported No. 1 receiver Christian Watson (hamstring) are trending toward playing this week. Watson hasn’t played this season after collecting seven TDs as a rookie. He caught five passes for 104 yards in the Week 18 loss to the Lions last season. Jones had 21 total carries for 73 yards in two losses to the Lions in 2022.

“We’ve got a lot of ball in front of us and obviously we’ve got a great test in front of us. It would certainly help us if those two guys were available,” LaFleur said.

There is less optimism about starting left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) and left guard Elgton Jenkins (knee). Jenkins was injured Sept. 17 at Atlanta. Bakhtiari hasn’t played since Week 1 and right tackle David Tom (knee) couldn’t finish the game last week.

Behind a makeshift line the past two weeks, Goff is consistently connecting with rookie Sam LaPorta, including a 45-yard touchdown in Week 3. LaPorta has 18 receptions in his first three games, an NFL record for a tight end. He’s second on the team to Amon-Ra St. Brown (21-275-1) in catches.

Sewell and Goff are on high alert for outside linebacker Rashan Gary, who was awarded the defensive game ball last week in his third game back from a torn ACL. Gary had 3.0 sacks to boost Green Bay’s comeback win. He had five pressures in 20 pass-rush opportunities.

“The postgame, you could see how much it means to that kid,” Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. “You talk about all-in.”

–Field Level Media

Feb 12, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, USA;The NFL shield and Kansas City Chiefs logos on the field at Super Bowl 57 at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL owners approve flex scheduling for ‘TNF’ games

NFL owners on Monday approved a modified proposal allowing for flex scheduling of “Thursday Night Football” games.

According to ESPN, the change passed by a 24-8 vote, with the New York Giants, New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Las Vegas Raiders, Detroit Lions, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers voting against it.

Per the resolution, Thursday games on Amazon Prime can only be flexed between Weeks 13 and 17 and require a four-week notice.

The flexible scheduling is on “a trial basis,” the resolution notes. Also, teams are limited to two Thursday night games per season.

Three teams — the Bears, Steelers and New Orleans Saints — are currently slated for two Thursday night games in 2023, with the Steelers hosting both of their Thursday games.

If no Thursday night games are flexed this season, the resolution will carry over to the 2024 season.

–Field Level Media

Feb 8, 2023; Phoenix, AZ, USA; NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell talks to media during a press conference at Media Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Roger Goodell says NFL officiating never better

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that the officiating in the league has never been better.

Goodell made the assertion at his annual news conference in Phoenix ahead of Super Bowl LVII — his state of the NFL address.

Goodell touched on several other flashpoints — including minority hiring, player health and safety, the Washington Commanders investigation and potential sale, future plans to flex “Thursday Night Football” and when the site of Super Bowl LX will be announced.

On the topic of officiating, Goodell said mistakes are unavoidable but threw his full support behind the crews.

“I don’t think it’s ever been better in the league,” Goodell said. “There are over 42,000 plays in a season. Multiple infractions could occur on any play. Take that out or extrapolate that. That’s hundreds if not millions of potential fouls. And our officials do an extraordinary job of getting those. Are there mistakes in the context of that? Yes, they are not perfect and officiating never will be.”

His comments come less than two weeks since controversial calls in both championship games.

“We may not agree with every TV announcer or officiating expert, but we think our officials are doing a great job,” Goodell said.

Reacting to recent comments from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who said the officials’ inconsistency was due to several referees leaving for network TV roles, Goodell said that wasn’t a factor.

“Are we losing people from the field to the booth? There are some that never even officiated on the NFL field, and so we didn’t lose anyone,” Goodell said. “We may have lost them from our office, but we didn’t lose them from officiating on the field. Others are taking on that responsibility at the end of their careers. So, I do not think that’s a factor at all. Zero.”

Goodell touched on several other topics Wednesday:

Minority hirings: Goodell credited the recently implemented coach and front office accelerator program with helping to introduce teams to a more diverse candidate pool. The commissioner told reporters that the program introduced the Tennessee Titans to their new general manager, Ran Carthon, in December.

Carthon, who is Black, is one of two minority GM or head coach candidates hired so far during this year’s cycle, along with DeMeco Ryans, who was named head coach of the Houston Texans last month.

“We’re gonna continue (the accelerator program),” Goodell said. “Our commitment’s strong to that. But that’s just one. We had a number of other programs that we’ve put in that I think are going to produce long-term results.

“Now we all want short-term results, but it’s important to have it be sustainable for the future, and we believe diversity makes us stronger. It’s about attracting the best talent and giving them the best opportunity to be successful. To me, that’s at the core of what we do. We want the changes to be really fundamental and sound and sustainable.”

Health and safety: Goodell addressed the modified concussion protocols that the NFL and the NFLPA agreed to after an investigation determined that the previous protocols did not lead to the intended result with Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

“Any time we can change the protocols to make it safer for our players, we’re gonna do that,” Goodell said. “What we changed in October is something that we thought would give us a better opportunity to treat those conditions more conservatively. … I think that’s also why concussions went up this year because we had a broader definition, a more conservative definition. We had an increase of 17 percent of evaluations. So if you have more evaluations, you’re going to have more concussions.”

The commissioner added that the next move in concussion prevention will be improvements to the helmets.

Washington Commanders investigation/potential sale: On the topic of Mary Jo White’s investigation into misconduct by the team’s owner, Daniel Snyder, Goodell said there’s no timeline in place for White to conclude her investigation and report her findings to the NFL.

“There is no timeline given to Mary Jo White,” Goodell said. “She is authorized to work independently. There is no timeline for her to come to any conclusions.”

As for the potential sale of the team, Goodell said the process of finding a buyer is underway but the league won’t be involved until the other owners vote whether to approve a deal.

“The Commanders are under a process. That’s their process. Ultimately, if they reach a conclusion and have someone joining the ownership group or buying the team, that’s something the ownership will look at.”

Site of Super Bowl LX: The Super Bowl locations for the next two seasons are set, with Las Vegas hosting Super Bowl LVII and New Orleans welcoming Super Bowl LIX to town in 2025.

As for the 60th (LX) and 61st (LXI) Super Bowls, Goodell said the selection for LX in 2026 will be made later this year. LXI’s location in 2027 could also be determined in 2023.

“Thursday Night Football” flex?: With flexible scheduling for “Monday Night Football” being implemented this year for December games, Goodell hinted that the league’s schedule could include flex games for “Thursday Night Football” in the future.

“This is the first year of our new deals which will have flexible scheduling on Monday night,” he said. “So we’ll have flexible scheduling on Sundays and Mondays, it wouldn’t at all surprise me at some point that we have it on Thursdays, at some stage. Not today, but it’ll certainly be something that’ll be on our horizon.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 15, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) throws against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Amazon records big numbers in ‘TNF’ debut

The first-ever “Thursday Night Football” game on Amazon’s Prime Video averaged 13.03 million viewers — better that Amazon projected — according to Nielsen.

That figure also includes the local broadcasts in the home markets of the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers.

Amazon had guaranteed advertisers at least 12.5 million viewers for the Thursday night games. Variety said the viewership for the Sept. 15 game, won by the Chiefs, exceeded the 8.84 million people who watched last season’s Thursday night opener on NFL Network and through digital services.

Prime is a subscription-only service that costs $139 a year and includes a variety of benefits, including free shipping on purchases made on Amazon. CNBC reported that a record number of people who wanted to watch last Thursday’s game signed up for Prime — more than on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

The Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers meet Thursday night to kick off Week 3, with Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit on the call.

–Field Level Media

Sep 15, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Logo for Amazon Prime Thursday Night Football on television camera pictured at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Amazon’s ‘TNF’ debut drives record audience, Prime sign-ups

The Nielsen ratings are not yet out for Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football” debut, but the company is already seeing benefits after one game.

Amazon vice president Jay Marine, the head of Prime Video, told employees in an internal memo this week that the company’s internal numbers were promising.

Last Thursday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers produced more new sign-ups for Amazon Prime in one three-hour period than the company had ever seen.

It also set a company record for primetime audience in the U.S., according to Marine, though that figure was not released.

“Thursday Night Football” averaged 13.2 million viewers on Fox last year.

Amazon is the first streaming service to wrest exclusive broadcast rights for NFL games away from traditional TV networks. The company took pains to produce a TV-quality broadcast, with legendary play-by-play announcer Al Michaels teaming up with ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit on the call.

The Chiefs beat the Chargers 27-24 in Amazon’s first game. Week 3’s Thursday game will see the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the Cleveland Browns.

–Field Level Media

Aug 20, 2021; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) talks to fans while leaving the field after the Washington Football Team's game against the Cincinnati Bengals at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Fitzpatrick joins Amazon’s TNF pregame coverage

Ryan Fitzpatrick, the journeyman quarterback who retired from the NFL earlier this month, is joining Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football” coverage in 2022.

Fitzpatrick will appear as an analyst on the platform’s pregame show. Amazon Prime Video will exclusively stream the NFL’s Thursday games for the first time next season.

“Amazon jumped out at me,” Fitzpatrick, 39, told the New York Post, “in terms of it is something that’s fresh and new. It just made a lot of sense of what I was trying to get into.”

Fitzpatrick played 166 games, starting 147, for nine different teams in his 17-year playing career. He has thrown for 34,990 yards and 223 touchdowns with 169 interceptions.

He played only 16 snaps last season for the now-Washington Commanders, his ninth NFL team. He completed 3 of 6 passes for 13 yards before suffering a hip subluxation in the second quarter of the season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. He underwent arthroscopic surgery and did not play the rest of the season.

Also this month, Amazon confirmed that cornerback Richard Sherman will be an analyst for its pregame, halftime and postgame coverage. Sherman has not retired from his playing career, telling the NFL Network that he was “still leaving that door open as long as I can.”

Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit were previously revealed as the play-by-play and commentary team. Herbstreit will remain in his college football roles at ESPN while adding Amazon to his resume. Michaels agreed to an “emeritus” role at NBC Sports, but Thursday games will be his main role in the 2022 season.

Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, who has worked for CBS and Fox, will also be a part of Amazon’s first foray into football.

–Field Level Media

Dec 13, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman (25) looks on against the Washington Football Team during the first half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Amazon officially names Richard Sherman TNF studio analyst

Veteran NFL cornerback Richard Sherman will be a studio analyst for Amazon’s new “Thursday Night Football” broadcast in 2022.

The agreement, first reported last month, will see Sherman, 34, contribute to pregame, halftime and postgame coverage of Thursday NFL games — most of which will be streamed exclusively on Amazon Prime for the first time.

The loquacious five-time All-Pro has not retired from his playing career, though, telling the NFL Network that he was “still leaving that door open as long as I can.”

“If somebody wants to call late December, and needs some help, I’m happy to help,” Sherman said.

Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, who has previously worked for CBS and Fox, will also be a part of Amazon’s first foray into football.

Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit were previously revealed as the play-by-play and commentary team. Herbstreit will remain in his college football roles at ESPN while adding Amazon to his resume. Michaels agreed to an “emeritus” role at NBC Sports, but Thursday games will be his main role in the 2022 season.

Sherman, best known for his role in the “Legion of Boom” Seattle Seahawks defense in the early 2010s, last played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for five games in 2021 while battling multiple injuries. He has totaled 495 tackles, 37 interceptions, five forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries in 144 career games (136 starts) with Seattle, the San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay.

–Field Level Media

Aug 26, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Network television commentator Al Michaels before the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Amazon announces ‘TNF’ booth of Al Michaels, Kirk Herbstreit

Amazon made it official Wednesday, naming Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit as the broadcast team for “Thursday Night Football” beginning in 2022.

They will make their debut on Sept. 15.

Amazon also announced that it hired longtime executive producer Fred Gaudelli to lead “TNF.”

Terms were not released by the tech giant. However, Michaels is expected to earn close to what Joe Buck just signed on for to call “Monday Night Football” on ESPN. Buck inked a five-year, $75 million deal.

“Over the last 36 seasons, I’ve been at the mic describing some of the most magical moments and games in NFL history and am looking forward to many more,” said Michaels in a statement. “This is the new frontier in sports television and to be a part of the launch at this point in my career is both exciting and stimulating. The NFL is the king of unscripted television and I’m looking forward to joining Kirk to bring fans more dramatic episodes on Thursday nights this fall.”

Herbstreit, 52, had himself a good day Wednesday. Not to be outdone by Amazon’s announcement, Herbstreit also signed a five-year extension with ESPN.

Herbstreit will continue in his role on ESPN’s “College GameDay” and as lead college football announcer. He reportedly has a contract in the eight figures with Amazon.

Gaudelli, a 24-time Emmy winner, has produced NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” broadcast and will “continue on NBC Sports’ executive team and will serve as a key contributor to NBC Sunday Night Football’s editorial and production efforts,” Amazon said.

Amazon paid billions to get the Thursday night package for the next 11 years. Its deal includes 15 regular-season games and one preseason game per year.

–Field Level Media