Amazon Prime Video Kicks Off New Era of NFL Production With Exclusive Thursday Night Football Package
The streamer plans to combine broadcast quality with interactive features
Tonight’s preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Houston Texans marks a new chapter in the history of NFL broadcasting. The game will be the first in Amazon Prime Video’s exclusive new Thursday Night Football package, marking the first time a streaming service will be the sole carrier of package of national NFL games. The medium may be different, but viewers can expect the same high-end production-quality seen in NFL games broadcast on television.
“I think it will be every bit the production value that I had when I was at Sunday Night Football [on NBC], without a doubt,” say TNF Executive Producer Fred Gaudelli, who, having come over from NBC, is entering his 33rd season as lead producer for an NFL primetime property.
“You’re going to have a telecast that has every technical innovation that football fans love: all the camera angles, all the augmented reality, all the technology that comes with the first-and-10 line, a replay for every camera, expert announcers. It’s going to be as good as, if not better than, any football telecast that [viewers are] used to watching.”
Tech Game Plan: New Trucks and a ‘Very, Very Robust Production’
Gaudelli, Lead Game Director Pierre Moossa, and the rest of the TNF production team will have a brand-new fleet of Game Creek Video mobile units to call home. The new Prime fleet is composed of PrimeOne (engineering, video, audio, subMix), PrimeOne B (main production, graphics or replay or sandbox), PrimeOne C (technology, replay), PrimeOne D (technology, maintenance, utility), PrimeOne E (edit, replay, replay Producer, technology), PrimeTwo (a standalone A unit for the pre/halftime/post-game production), and PrimeThree (office).
The TNF team has been onsite at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles the past two weeks and conducted a rehearsal game production there earlier this month.
According to Gaudelli, this season’s TNF broadcasts will feature “a very, very robust production” that includes dual Skycam systems and 13 super-slo-mo cameras. The TrackMan ball-tracking technology used to visually illustrate field-goal kicks on NBC’s Sunday Night Football will also be used for TNF broadcasts.
Noting that his team will lean heavily into technology, Gaudelli stresses that the overall presentation will be very recognizable to NFL fans.
“NFL fans have a very definitive expectation when they turn on the television,” he says. “The best people in sports television work on the NFL. When it comes to primetime, I think [fans’] expectations are heightened: if you don’t come with a real quality show, they’re probably not going to come back. We’ve seen, ‘Hey, let’s try this, let’s try that,’ over the years, and nothing really stuck. Even on Sunday night, we tried a couple of things, but you have to start out with a high-level production with terrific announcers, and the audience will come because it’s the National Football League.”
Prime Video also partnered with composer Pinar Toprak (Captain Marvel, Fortnite) to create an all-new TNF original score and theme music echoing the epic and dramatic theme music of other iconic NFL franchises.
Optionality and Personalization: Prime Video Leans Into ‘Almost Infinite Choice’
In addition to a high-tech production, Prime Video emphasizes the personalization and optionality offered by its streaming platform. In addition to delivering pre/postgame and halftime shows, Prime Video will deliver alternative streams of the game to accompany the primary broadcast featuring Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit. “TNF With Dude Perfect” is the first to be announced, with additional feeds planned.
TNF viewers can also access interactive features — X-Ray, NFL Next Gen Stats powered by AWS — that were available on Amazon Prime Video’s non-exclusive TNF streaming experience. Viewers also have the ability to pause, record, and instantly watch replays.
“Obviously, we’re an innovation-first company,” says Marie Donoghue, VP, Global Sports Video, Amazon. “We approach our broadcast that way, and you’ll see it in the broadcast. The OTT platform provides us a great opportunity to provide not just new ways to engage fans with data, highlights, and alternate feeds but also almost infinite choice.
“A lot of what we’re trying to do,” she continues, “is cultivate and program the best experience for the most fans. We’re creating a huge, big-tent experience, and then we’ll provide great optionality for fans. Not everybody wants to watch the game the same way. We’re not choosing one type of fan to serve; we’re trying to serve all fans.”
Viewers can stream via amazon.com, the Prime Video app, or Twitch (over-the-air TV stations in each competing team’s home market will also carry the broadcasts). Just before kickoff tonight, Prime Video will run a one-minute how-to video to help viewers navigate Thursday Night Football viewing.
“I think the big differences are going to be all the other things you can access while streaming a game [but] can’t access when you’re watching it on television,” says Gaudelli. “Whether it’s the alternate feeds, whether it’s the predictive and ability statistics, whether it’s checking out your own replays when you want to see them, that’s where I think you’re going to get the more enriched experience in watching Thursday Night Football on Prime Video.”
It wouldn’t be Amazon if there weren’t a shopping component to the TNF streaming experience. Shopping will integrated into the viewing experience via X-Ray, Donoghue says, and advertisers will have the opportunity to place interactive ad spots during the live streams.
“Amazon has an amazing trust and relationship with our users,” she says, “For the first time, we’ll actually be able to utilize first-party data to help make those advertisements even more effective. We’ll follow their lead on how interactive those ads will be and the formats and things like that, but, absolutely, we’ve experienced great excitement from our advertisers about moving the ball forward.”
New Front Bench Partner: Moossa Takes the Reins Alongside Gaudelli
For the first time in nearly 30 years, Gaudelli will not be sitting next to his longtime partner, director Drew Esocoff, for a primetime NFL broadcast. Esocoff, who will continue to direct Sunday Night Football on NBC alongside newly named producer Rob Hyland, teamed with Gaudelli on ESPN’s Sunday Night Football, ABC’s Monday Night Football, and NBC’s Sunday Night Football during their three-plus decades together.
Moossa, a longtime NBC producer and director, will join Gaudelli at the TNF front bench. He is no stranger to Gaudelli, having served as an AD on Sunday Night Football for six years and also as director for NBC’s Football Night in America pregame show.
“[Pierre] always impressed me: super smart, really knew the ins and outs of television,” says Gaudelli. “As a producer and a director, he pioneered NBC’s Premier League coverage. He’s extremely thorough, very talented, very calm. And I’m proud to be working with him. I’ve seen him grow over the last 16 years, and there’s no question that he is ready for this opportunity.”