Nielsen, Amazon Seal ‘Thursday Night Football’ Ratings Pact; Numbers To Include Out-Of-Home, Twitch And Local TV Viewing

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Nielsen and Amazon have reached a landmark deal for measuring the viewership of Thursday Night Football, which begins an unprecedented run next month as a streaming exclusive on Prime Video.

Beginning next month, pregame, in-game and postgame elements of the broadcast will count toward the rating, both on Prime Video and Twitch. Over-the-air local TV station carriage in both teams’ local markets — guaranteed under longtime NFL rules — and out-of-home viewing will also be added to the metric, enabling it to be a more robust (if not entirely apples-to-apples) figure to compare with Sunday and Monday NFL games.

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The 3-year pact represents the first time a streaming service will be included in Nielsen’s national TV measurement service, and also a first for a live streaming program. Nielsen for the past two years has captured total streaming on Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and Hulu, adding Apple TV+ and HBO Max along the way to those streaming rankings. The company delivers the numbers nearly a month after the fact for reasons related to both technological and logistical considerations as well as diplomatic relations with customers.

The numbers will be delivered on the same timeline as the rest of the national numbers for broadcast and cable outlets, according to a person familiar with the new setup. The official announcement did not specify a delivery time.

Thursday night NFL games racked up a total audience of 16.4 million on Fox, the NFL Network and Prime Video, up 16% from the year before. (Prime previously offered simulcasts of the broadcast TV coverage of games.) Citing media buyer sources, The Wall Street Journal said Amazon has told advertisers to expect an average viewership of 12.6 million for each of the 15 games streaming this year. Amazon has said 80 million households have access to Prime Video. Some adjustment period will be necessary as viewers make the switch from linear to streaming.

Fox, NBC and CBS shared Thursday night NFL rights for the past decade-plus before Amazon swooped in to pay $1.2 billion a year for the exclusive rights for the next 11 years. The tech giant has been making significant investments in live sports, with an eye toward capturing a larger slice of the tens of billions spent each year on TV advertising. Last May, it convened a splashy presentation for ad buyers at Lincoln Center during the NewFronts, welcoming lead broadcast pairing Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit onstage. In addition to that duo, Amazon has hired a number of other football specialists both behind and in front of the camera, including executive producer Fred Gaudelli, who teamed with Michaels on NBC’s Sunday Night Football juggernaut for 16 seasons.

Amazon reported last month that advertising services revenue grew 18% in the second quarter compared with the same period of 2021 to reach $8.76 billion, a better performance than that of other digital ad hawkers in a quarter beset by numerous economic challenges.

In a press release, the companies promised that Thursday night broadcasts “will be measured and processed like all other NFL games, using Nielsen’s panel, allowing for the same metrics to be reported across all other national networks, continued trending, and comparability.”

The NFL continues to be the marquee draw, with games and shoulder programming taking up 47 of the top 50 spots in the overall live ratings.

Nielsen has seen its reputation dinged a bit over the past year or two, with networks and advertisers claiming the company undercounted audiences both in streaming and linear, but it remains the dominant force in measurement despite new challenges from a number of emerging services.

“Nielsen is the long-time leader in the measurement space, providing gold-standard currency to the media industry and we’re thrilled that Amazon recognizes that and is working with us to bring a streaming service into our national TV measurement for the first time ever,” said Deirdre Thomas, managing director of U.S. audience measurement product sales at Nielsen. “We are committed to delivering comparable, comprehensive measurement of all audiences, across all platforms, and this agreement to measure TNF viewership is a testament to that commitment.”

Srishti Gupta, director of media measurement for Amazon Ads, said the company is aiming to deliver “a new viewing experience and offering brands new ways to connect with current and future fans.” Teaming with Nielsen, she added, “will allow us to provide advertisers with familiar campaign measurement to make apples-to-apples comparisons across their multi-channel media investments. Additionally, advertisers will have access to metrics from Amazon that will provide actionable insights to understand brand awareness, engagement, and sales. This powerful combination of first and third-party measurement is something only Amazon can provide.”

The new measurement framework will begin with a preseason game on August 25, ahead of the September 15 kickoff to the regular season.

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