Amazon Breaches TV’s Last Stronghold With $13 Billion Bet on NFL

When the National Football League’s regular season kicks off Thursday, millions of fans will settle into their easy chairs to watch America’s biggest, richest sport. But a different, multibillion dollar match will unfold a week later.

Starting Sept. 15, viewers who want to watch “Thursday Night Football” will have to log in to Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Video streaming service. The contest between the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs is the first regular-season game in an 11-year, $13 billion deal that makes Amazon the exclusive home of “Thursday Night Football.”

It’s the first time a streaming service has obtained exclusive, season-long rights to NFL games in the US, and it presents a big challenge to major networks—like CBS, ESPN, NBC and Fox—that have dominated televised sports for generations. If Amazon can attract the millions of viewers and prestige advertisers that football usually draws, other leagues, like the NBA, may be more willing to offer exclusive packages to online heavyweights.

“This is an inflection point,” said Daniel Cohen, executive vice president of global media rights consulting at Octagon, a division of the ad giant Interpublic Group of Cos. “We’ll look back on this season of Amazon exclusively producing and distributing NFL games as a turning point in sports broadcasting.”