SVG Sit-Down: Prime Video’s Jared Stacy on Iterative Change in Season 2 of Thursday Night Football
Analytics, data visualization help differentiate Prime Video from other NFL coverage
Amazon Prime Video kicks officially kicks off the second season of its exclusive Thursday Night Football deal tonight with a Vikings–Eagles faceoff in Philadelphia. Prime Video will roll out a bunch of innovations for its 16-game NFL regular-season slate, including producing and delivering all games in 1080p HDR; an enhanced Prime Vision alternative stream that will feature Prime Targets, Defensive Alerts, Fourth Down Territory, and Field Goal Target Zone data-visualizations; and AI-powered interactive features like X-Ray, Rapid Recaps, and Key Moments.
Director of Live Sports Production Jared Stacy, who leads the charge on all of Prime Video’s live-production efforts around the globe, including Thursday Night Football, sat down with SVG ahead of the opener to discuss what his team learned in Year 1, the thinking behind its onsite studio show, how Amazon will boost the TNF viewing experience this year, why 1080p HDR makes a difference, the evolution of Prime Vision and TNF’s other alternative presentations, what new producer Mark Teitelman brings to the show, what fans can expect from the first ever Black Friday NFL game, TNF’s enhanced schedule this season, and much more.
What key learnings from last season do you plan to leverage for Year 2 of the exclusive NFL rights deal?
Last year, there were so many unknowns; there were even unknown unknowns. But I think our biggest learning was that we have an amazing group of people working on this, [comprising] experts in their fields — whether on screen or behind the camera. Now that we’re in Year 2, that team is committed to growing it and innovating and pushing each other to make each year better and to make each week better. We are not afraid to fail and not afraid to try new things. That’s the culture we have established, and I’m very proud of that.
How do feel the Prime onsite studio show performed and evolved during that first year? And what can we expect this year?
When you look at our pre- and postgame show, we make a conscious decision to put people on television that hadn’t necessarily been there before, like Richard [Sherman] and Ryan [Fitzpatrick] and [Andrew Whitworth] and then surrounding them with veterans like Charissa [Thompson] and Tony [Gonzalez]. Seeing that team gel and develop chemistry with each other and the audience in such a short time was great. I think it helped create an identity for TNF on Prime. It’s a fun group, it’s an authentic group, it’s a curious group. Nobody takes themselves too seriously, but all of them know football as well as anybody on the planet. They’re a fun group for the audience to hang out with on Thursday nights and a fun group to hang out with behind the scenes, [which] translates on screen.
How would you rate the streaming/viewing experience for TNF on Prime in Year 1 of the rights deal? And how are you looking to boost that experience this season?
I was impressed by our ability to deliver at scale. There were a lot of questions around whether the streaming [ecosystem] could handle an audience this big. The audience came and found us, so the pressure was on. Thankfully, we had brilliant production and tech people that were ready to handle an audience the size of an NFL audience and put in a lot of hard work to get that done. I think everyone at Amazon was really pleased with the way the platform delivered.
There were also some phenomenal product features that will continue to grow this year. We’re excited about some of the developments on Prime Vision, and we want to go deeper and innovate on that Prime Vision alternate presentation. We will roll out some new features that are AI– and machine-learning–driven. We spent a lot of time after the season talking to the fans that enjoyed that feed to try to get a sense of what they liked, what they didn’t like, and what they would like to see more of. I think you’re going to see some interesting on-screen visualizations this year, building on what we did last year.
How do you believe delivering games in 1080p HDR this year will benefit the viewer? Since you are not limited by the same cable/broadcast ecosystem constraints of other primetime NFL rightsholders, does your team expect TNF will offer the best HDR viewing experience to date for NFL viewers?
We received a lot of compliments on our picture quality last year, which was 1080p SDR. So we’re excited to raise the bar in 2023 as we continually work to improve the viewing experience for fans. Producing and delivering in native HDR, with no need to upconvert the signal along the way or navigate through legacy broadcast affiliates or cable set-top boxes, provides incredible depth to our images, greater contrast between light and dark, and more-vivid colors — especially in primetime under the lights. TNF will be the most broadly distributed NFL game in native 1080p HDR this season, and we believe that fans will definitely notice and enjoy the upgrade.
Do you see Prime Vision and the work you’re doing around analytics and data visualization as a differentiator for TNF on Prime compared with other NFL rightsholders’ broadcasts?
It’s definitely a priority for us, but we always like to strike a balance. Everything we do is built to add to the storytelling. One of the benefits of having optionality [with multiple presentations] is that you’re not going to get inundated with that content. We know that there’s a subset of the audience that craves more information and deeper presentations of analytics, so Prime Vision is the perfect spot for them. That’s where we’re going to show what goes into the decisions out on the field: how are coaches thinking about third- and fourth-down play-calling situations or going for two after a score?
There is an audience that wants more of that great information coming out of Next Gen Stats, and there’s an audience that wants more of a traditional lean-back experience, and that’s available, too. I think it’s also key to point out that we see Prime Vision not only as a great product experience but also as an incubator for us to develop and play with new technology that might migrate over to the main broadcast at some point.
What can fans expect from the other alternative presentations — TNF With Dude Perfect and TNF in The Shop With Lebron James – this year?
We’re thrilled with our partnership with both the Dudes and The Shop. We love collaborating with people like them who are so creative and have a unique voice in the industry.
What we saw with the Dudes was families coming together to watch and kids staying up a little later past their bedtime to watch. We also saw that kids that wouldn’t normally watch games tuned into the game with their families. That was very fun and exactly what we were hoping for.
With The Shop, it’s fascinating to see LeBron watch football and see his knowledge and passion for the game. Then you add in people like Jalen Ramsey and see them go back and forth. I think it’s just a fun experience, and we’re excited to take that to the next level this year.
How did NBC Sports Executive Producer, NFL, Fred Gaudelli help set the tone as producer of TNF on Prime last year? And now that he has transitioned into an executive-producer role, what do you expect newcomer Mark Teitelman to add at the front bench this season?
For me personally, it was a thrill to work with Fred and learn from Fred and collaborate with him, having watched his work for so long and holding it in such high regard. We’re now set up for long-term success thanks to him. Fred was the right guy to launch this, and T-Man is the right person to lead it into the future. Mark is creative, he’s a great teammate, and he is as football-obsessed as anybody you’ll meet. We’re excited to make a smooth transition and see what he brings to the table while Fred stays on in an advisory capacity.
And beyond that, we have a great leadership team in place behind the scenes with Betsy Riley, [senior coordinating producer, live events, Prime Video]; Mike Muriano [executive producer, live sports, Prime Video]; and Spoon Daftary, [senior coordinating producer, Prime Video].
What can fans expect for the new Black Friday NFL game, and how are you looking to create a different kind of viewing experience for this new tentpole event?
We are extremely excited to create a new tradition with the NFL on Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving, most Americans are with their family, eating leftovers, shopping, and now they get to watch NFL football. Considering what we are able to do as a company, I think we’re uniquely positioned to bring all of those things into a unified experience. We believe we can create unique experiences and put on a first-of-its-kind show that will delight customers. The game will always be first; you’re going to see some cool things that we’ll be able to talk about more in the coming weeks.
How excited are you about this year’s enhanced schedule of games and the potential to flex games later in the season?
We think it’s a great schedule. Hopefully, we [won’t be] flexing at all, but it’s great to have that option later in the season. Coming out of the chute, we have three straight NFC Playoff–caliber matchups to start the season with Vikings–Eagles, Giants–Niners, and then Lions–Packers at Lambeau Field. I’m personally looking forward to Baltimore–Cincinnati, which leads into Black Friday and then Cowboys–Seahawks the week after Black Friday. We’ve got some great AFC West matchups later in the season with Chargers–Raiders and then Mahomes and the Chiefs against Denver at Arrowhead in October. There are some great matchups throughout the season, and we’re very excited to have them.
Prior to last season, you said that you were focused more on being great than on being different. Do you think you accomplished that level of greatness, and, in Season 2, are you looking to differentiate more from other NFL broadcasts than you were last year?
Ironically, I think we ended up doing both last year. There was a moment during our opener with Chargers–Raiders when I’m sitting watching all our different feeds. On one end, Al and Kirk are calling the game, and, on another, the Dudes are doing a stunt with a live duck on the screen. I think we were great and different at the same time.
I haven’t seen anybody else bring a live duck on their shows. I think the cool part was that we did take some calculated risks, especially when it came to our shoulder programming and the cast. We trusted that we had the right people. I think our tone of voice was different than people were expecting, in a really positive and refreshing way.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.