Why the NFL on Amazon Prime Is a Victory for Connected TV

Why the NFL on Amazon Prime Is a Victory for Connected TV

Amazon

For decades, watching NFL games on television has meant gathering in front of a TV set and watching a game on one of the major networks. NFL games have been events that vanquish the competition. Featured programming such as Sunday Night Football, Thursday Night Football, and Monday Night Football have dominated viewer ratings. All of this is still the case. But how we watch football is changing.

On September 15, the NFL officially entered a new era of television broadcasting when the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers took the field for Thursday Night Football. Instead of televising the game on an established linear TV network, the NFL streamed the match-up on Amazon Prime as part of a $13 billion, 11-year deal with Amazon.

The game marked the NFL’s official embrace of streaming. It also meant that to watch TNF going forward, football fans would need to sign up for Amazon Prime, which is Amazon’s premium service costing $139 annually. And so far, it looks like fans are willing to pony up. According to an internal Amazon memo, the September 15 broadcast drew a record number of Prime sign-ups for a year-hour period.

Given the popularity of the NFL – easily the most dominant brand on TV based on viewer ratings – the streaming agreement has significant ramifications for advertisers. Notably, this is a victory for connected TV, which means watching TV content through a device such as Roku or Amazon Fire. Many people refer to connected TV as over-the-top (OTT) TV, which refers to streaming content directly over the internet instead of cable, broadcast, and satellite television platforms. Although technically the two terms differ – with connected TV referring specifically to the device people use to stream content – for all intents and purposes, they are the same. Whatever you want to call it, connected TV has arrived: streaming is now more popular than cable. It’s no longer optional for businesses to have an OTT advertising strategy.

Connected advertising is similar to linear TV advertising because both formats rely obviously on video. But connected TV is different in many important ways. For one thing, advertisers need to understand how to create video content that will reach viewers across a variety of viewing devices in addition to TV screens, and connected TV ads are competing with multiple content streams. (You can watch TNF on a laptop, mobile phone, or gaming console with multiple screens open.)

And each streaming service and connected TV device (ranging from Amazon Fire to Roku) offer their own ad units. For example, Amazon Ads, which is Amazon’s fast-growing advertising business, offers ad units such as inline ads (which appear as selectable rows in each major browsing section of Fire TV) and feature rotator (a carousel-like ad placement appearing above the fold of the screen).

Ahead of the launch of TNF on Amazon Prime, Danielle Carney, Amazon Ads’ Head of NFL Sales, said:

We’re offering myriad opportunities to get involved with TNF, catering to brands’ range of needs. Our premier sponsorships give advertisers the ability to elevate their brands during the pre-game, pre-kick, halftime, and post-game shows. But that’s not all. We’re continuing to innovate and explore other potential sponsorships and packages that will enable brands tell their stories in unique ways through our surround, alternate feeds, and ancillary programming. Our newly built creative sports team will help customize the experience for our partners.

Outside of sponsorships, brands can use Streaming TV ads to reach fans throughout games on Prime Video and Twitch. Like our sponsorships, these video ads are backed by Amazon’s first-party insights, bringing more value and insight into campaign performance for brands.

To succeed, though, Amazon Prime needs to deliver viewing numbers to advertisers. Reportedly, Amazon has told advertisers that it expects to see nightly viewership of about 12.5 million people for its inaugural season of TNF. We’ll soon see. Amazon agreed for Nielsen to track ratings for TNF, and ratings for the September broadcast are still forthcoming.

Amazon Prime also needs to deliver a desirable experience. Amazon promises alternative ways to watch TNF, including Dude Perfect, a popular trick-shot comedy group. Amazon Fire TV and Alexa are bringing new features to NFL fans as well, such as trivia and real-time access to statistics (which should appeal to Fantasy Football devotees). Early fan reactions to the September 15 broadcast were mixed, and it looks like Amazon has some technical issues with content buffering to fix. Of course, no one can predict the quality of an actual NFL game, but Amazon can certainly deliver on the overall experience. Let’s see how Amazon adapts.

The broadcast is also significant for another reason: a victory for first-party data, which is the information that businesses collect directly from their customers. Amazon will use first-party data to sell targeted ads to help drive revenue for the games. This is huge. Right now, third-party audience data is withering away thanks to Apple’s and Google’s privacy measures. Businesses that figure out how to monetize first-party data enjoy an enormous advantage. Amazon has already become the third biggest ad platform in the world (behind Google and Meta) by using first-party data to sell targeted ads. The ascendance of first-party data is one reason why retailer-based ad networks have become so popular.

Bottom line: what is your advertising game plan for connected TV?

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with connected TV advertising, contact True Interactive. We have deep experience with this format.

Why Yahoo! Scores An Advertising Touchdown with NFL Live

Why Yahoo! Scores An Advertising Touchdown with NFL Live

Advertising

As more cord-cutters embrace connected TV, advertisers don’t reach as many people as they used to. We blogged recently about the fact that even blockbuster TV shows like Game of Thrones attract a fraction of the audiences that used to gather in linear television’s heyday. The change has created an environment in which content creators and advertisers are invited to find new ways to make money from digital audiences. The shift isn’t limited to shows or series, of course. It also includes live sports, with platforms and publishers such as Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo!, and YouTube landing rights to broadcast games from the likes of Major League Baseball, the NFL, and the NHL. Yahoo!, for example, has adapted to the connected TV era by providing the NFL Live experience, which, in turn, creates an opportunity for advertisers: a less expensive, more targeted way for brands to reach NFL fans.

What Is NFL Live?

NFL Live is currently the only free mobile site for watching live NFL games. Yahoo! makes free NFL viewing a reality by empowering businesses to advertise on NFL Live. Some of the advantages to advertisers are straightforward: brands get their name in front of six million+ people who have downloaded the app, for example. But it’s not just the volume that matters—it’s the ability to target viewers. Instead of buying advertising spots for certain times during a game (the third quarter of a Bears/Packers game, say), advertisers on NFL Live can reach out to particular audiences. By targeting a group as specific as women ages 25-34 making $100,000+ annually, an advertiser may not reach the largest audience — but they can reach a market they determine is uniquely suited to their brand. It’s a trade-off that can be lucrative, bringing to mind the maxim “quality versus quantity.”

Another perk: it’s less expensive to advertise on NFL Live. A typical network ad during an NFL game costs about $300,000. By contrast, there is no minimum spend for advertising on NFL Live. Advertisers can spend as much or as little as they want.

How Is Yahoo! Expanding NFL Live to Yahoo!’s Fantasy Football App?

Yahoo! has done something else. The company is ramping up its NFL Live offering by also streaming NFL games on Yahoo!’s popular Fantasy Football app. As Yahoo! Fantasy analyst Liza Loza recently said, “NFL fans all over the country can root for their favourite teams and watch all local and primetime games free and unauthenticated in the Yahoo! Fantasy Football app, the Yahoo! Sports app and other Verizon and NFL media properties on phones and tablets.” Multiple streaming locations mean a larger audience. They also hold the promise of attracting new fans. Yahoo! Sports general manager Geoff Reiss said that the digital platforms have brought in a “concentration of younger fans watching the NFL . . . Half of our fans were under the age of 40. I think one of the reasons the league was interested in working with us is we would be a means for them to reach younger audiences.”

Contact True Interactive

Yahoo! is a prime example of a business that’s adapting with the times. It’s important that advertisers remain nimble and aware of what companies like Yahoo! are doing, and capitalize on the opportunities that the changing market affords. Accept the fact that you won’t be reaching as big of an audience. Embrace the reality that you can in fact reach a much more targeted audience: one that’s smaller but more measurable. Call True Interactive for more insight into how to do that.

How the NFL.com Handles a Controversial Issue: the NFL

How the NFL.com Handles a Controversial Issue: the NFL

Branding

How do you report on a controversy that strikes your own organization?

In recent days, the NFL has found itself at the eye of a storm with the #TakeaKnee player protests erupting in stadiums across the country. But on its NFL.com website, the league has not shied away from reporting on the sensitive issue, with stories reporting the protests and player reactions. The NFL’s reaction to #TakeaKnee is an interesting example of how a business uses the discipline of content marketing to address a controversy too big to ignore.

What Exactly Is Content Marketing?

A business practices content marketing by publishing useful information that supports its own brand. The definition breaks down this way:

  • Content marketing builds the credibility of a brand (hence the “marketing” part of content marketing) . . .
  • . . . by sharing useful information (content), such as how-to tips, news, commentary, and visual stories.

Through content marketing, brands act as publishers, sharing news, editorial commentary, and other forms of insight you typically associate with a third-party information source. Content marketing is not “look at me” advertising or PR. Both those forms of marketing are valuable and have their place, but they are not content marketing.

When True Interactive publishes blogs commenting on digital marketing, we practice content marketing because we are building our brand by publishing information we believe to be useful to our clients. When we issue a press release announcing a new hire or a client win, we are not practicing content marketing but rather PR, which is why we post press releases elsewhere.

Controversy Hits the NFL

When the #TakeaKnee protests escalated rapidly over the weekend of September 22-24, the league was faced with a challenge: how to deal with the issue. The news section of NFL.com was the natural place to report on the topic. Like other brands serious about content marketing, the NFL acts as a news publisher on its own website. NFL writers cover football topics just like newspaper sports writers do. For instance, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey ravaging Texas, Houston Texans Quarterback JJ. Watt discussed his commitment to helping Houston recover from the storm – and the NFL was there to report his comments.

The NFL is a news-reporting machine, as it must be to cover a league with 32 teams. News coverages ranges from scores to injuries to topical events such as the example with J.J. Watt. The league also covers college football, wisely understanding that devout NFL fans likely care about college football, the source of most NFL talent.

The NFL has been known to cover news that casts the league in a less-than-flattering light, such as the Miami Dolphins’ suspension of linebacker Lawrence Timmons. But the #TakeaKnee protests have been something different: an issue that thrusts the NFL into the center of a political and social maelstrom, resulting in calls of boycotts and support at the same time.

The league’s handling of the issue on its website has been measured:

  • The league reported a perspective from Commissioner Roger Goodell.
  • The NFL also let pictures do the talking via a photo essay of various team protests and shows of unity.

On the other hand, the NFL complemented the #TakeaKnee coverage with many other articles discussing league news, including, of course, the most obvious: game results. For the period September 24-28, most of the news coverage centered on developments affecting on-the-field play, such as the struggles of the Baltimore Ravens offense.

By balancing coverage of the controversy with news about the game itself, the NFL showed that the contests between the teams do not exist in a vacuum while keeping the focus of its coverage on the reason why people watch football in the first place: to find which team will win or lose. To be sure, you can find more complete, hard-hitting perspectives on the #TakeaKnee controversy elsewhere, including criticisms of owners’ participation. That said, the website’s news section passes the test for being useful – one of the principles of content marketing – while also supporting the NFL by being credible.  Contact True Interactive to learn how to build your brand with content marketing. We’re here to help.

Image source: NFL.com