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.

Super Bowl Ads: The Medium Is the Message

Super Bowl Ads: The Medium Is the Message

Marketing

Evaluating Super Bowl ads has become an immensely popular spectator sport since the big game emerged in 1967. What’s changed recently is that people not only care about the content of the ads but how they’re delivered. For instance:

  • We’ve seen other advertisers take the “anti-real-time” approach, creating a build-up for the big game by sharing teasers for their ads ahead of time, similar to movie trailers. Some brands actually release the ads themselves before the game, in an effort to generate conversation, accumulate online views, and presumably extend the shelf life of the notoriously expensive ads.
  • We’ve seen a variety of other approaches that can best be described as stunts, ranging from Snickers livestreaming the actual set of its ad (for a behind-the-scenes approach) to 84 Lumber generating publicity by talking about an ad that was rejected (a “how we courted controversy” approach).

The latest stunt: Skittles will broadcast a 60-second spot for an audience of one: a teenager named Marcos Menendez from Canoga Park, California. The rest of us will watch Menendez’s reaction via a livestream on Skittles’ Facebook page. Lest you think that Skittles is pulling off the ultimate act of narrowcasting, consider the engagement Skittles is generating:

  • Creation of content about the ad. As Matt Montei, vice president of fruit confections for Skittles’ parent Mars, told Adweek, “We’ll also have content in the form of four different teasers for everyone to view and speculate what that final ad might be, even though they themselves will not be able to view the final ad.”
  • Generation of buzz for Skittles including the audience with the inevitable “Who is Marcos Menendez?” narrative emerging. Think about that. How many ads create conversation because of the audience watching them? The PR entered the realm of the improbable and offbeat when Oakland Raiders Running Back Marshawn Lynch apparently tweeted his phone number because he wanted Marcos Menendez to call him in order to watch the ad with him.

It’s possible that the Skittles campaign is informed by the phenomenal story of Carter Wilkerson, a teenager whose obsession with Wendy’s Nuggets sparked a hilarious viral campaign on Twitter to help the teen win a free year of the nuggets. A seemingly random Twitter exchange between Wendy’s and one person resulted in Carter getting the most retweets in history – and for Wendy’s, powerful PR.

The Wendy’s/Carter Wilkerson story involved a real teen with a passion for Wendy’s Nuggets. But it’s questionable whether Marcos Menendez is even real. What kind of teen joins Twitter in January 2018? When you look at the tongue-in-cheek way Skittles promotes the “audience of one” on its Facebook page, it’s easy to conclude that we’re being set up for an ad that never was to a person who never was. By creating an audience of one, is Skittle’s stealing the voice and power of organic social media? If this campaign is just a stunt and Marcos isn’t real, will the stunt cause more distrust and backlash of social media? At a time when concerns about fake news are prevalent, Skittles could be taking a big risk.

Whether Marcos Menendez real or just a clever stunt, the Skittles promotion underscores the tremendous buzz that national brands create with their ads, both the content and the format. If you are affiliated with a national brand – let’s say you’re a retailer that sells Skittles online and offline – you should be capitalizing on the spike in awareness for Skittles occurring right now. For example, adjust your keyword bids and optimize your online inventory content for people searching where to buy Skittles. Make sure your socials tap into the national campaign. Put the stunt to work for you.

For more insight into how to build your brand and generate revenue through digital advertising, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.