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Amazon, NFL Partner To Stream Thursday Night Games; Adios, Twitter

April 13, 2017 1 comment

Tim Cook once opined “The Future of TV is Apps” and those words were proudly displayed on a screen behind him when he introduced the updated Apple TV back in 2015. Just a week after the fourth-generation Apple TV went on sale, Apple commanded 31% of the streaming market, well ahead of Amazon and Roku, which at that time were the leaders. Two years on, we haven’t seen much new innovation from Apple TV but we have certainly seen a lot of content development, innovation and marketing and licensing leadership from Amazon.

This week Amazon and the National Football League (NFL) announced a licensing partnership for the 2017 season. Amazon will have the streaming rights to 10 Thursday night games during the Fall 2017 season. The deal is a switch from the NFL’s 2016 season partnership with Twitter. In 2016 Twitter and the NFL debuted their Thursday night streaming partnership with the N.Y. Jets vs. Buffalo game and reached 2.1 million people. Just as with the Twitter partnership last year, Thursday night games will be simulcast on network broadcast (CBS or NBC) and on cable via the NFL Network. That’s where the partnership similarities end.

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Twitter streamed the games free of charge. Amazon will only make the Thursday night games available to Amazon Prime members. Amazon is said to have paid $50 million for the 10 games, whereas Twitter paid $10 million for their deal last year. Of course, Amazon has an existing streaming service whereas Twitter did not. Amazon also has a platform with all sorts of commerce opportunities, Alexa their AI assistant and, perhaps more importantly, millions of member profiles with credit cards on file. This partnership is rife with many more opportunities beyond the streaming games — the power of the Amazon platform.

Last year’s test with Twitter was another proof point that showed the NFL and the entertainment world that consumers are happy to get their sports content streamed across any device and it showed a snippet of possibility. At the time I wrote how Twitter was a great partner to drive engagement for their platform as fans could talk smack throughout the game with the close proximity of game/tweets. While that was great for driving higher active-user numbers for Twitter and growing their user base, there wasn’t any commerce connected. Amazon has the ability to drive equal engagement (sans tweeting in the interface) and, more importantly, more folks opting into Prime (NFL games, music, and free shipping …) and the biggest and e-commerce platform. For those reasons and only streaming to Prime customers are probably big contributors to the NFL doubling their asking price for the 10 games. Even without knowing all the details, this is big win for both Amazon and the NFL.

Where does this latest entertainment leave Apple TV? While I’m a big fan of Apple, I have to say this is yet another area where Apple has been outdone by a Seattle tech giant. In the last year, Amazon has continued to build out their entertainment business, adding more original content and winning their first ever Golden Globes. The future of TV may be apps but the content and the power of the platform behind the apps has to be creating better and more licensing deals that deliver more eyeballs and potential revenue upside. Apple seems to continually be outplayed — although they do have a shiny new company headquarters.

This new partnership with Amazon should be a great testing ground for Amazon partners looking to take advantage of the Amazon streaming sponsorship. Now is the time to start thinking about your commerce partnership with Amazon and how you can work your way into their advertising opportunities. And let’s not forget about testing ways to get your brand content into Alexa as a way to accompany all those information and service requests during Thursday night games. As marketers, our job is to ensure our brands and services are nimble enough to adapt and execute for this upcoming season and test several plays.

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A Perfect Trifecta For Live-Streaming: Video, Image, Messaging

My latest Marketing:Entertainment post from @Mediapost

In the past week, I’ve been talking with a lot of my marketer and ad-tech friends across Silicon Valley and Madison Ave. Much of the conversation starts with, “Did you see Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends Report?” “What do you think?” Of course, I’ve seen it! My hunch is that nearly everyone reading this post has seen it, at least in some part. Meeker’s annual report is akin to everyone waiting eagerly to see if Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow every year. Of course, Meeker’s report has much more accurate prognostications than the weather predictions of a furry rodent.

I typically ask friends, “What about the report did you find most interesting?” Several conversations have focused on mobile, media and entertainment, specifically with regard to trends and topics I’ve discussed here over the past 18 months. Here are a couple of areas from the report that get me excited and why I’m so bullish on the convergence of mobile, video, entertainment and how brands have only begun to engage.

The report showed how smartphones are increasingly used to combine several powerful storytelling tools via camera + storytelling + creativity + messaging across a social platform with network effect. Meeker mentioned that she and her team believe Snapchat has a “perfect trifecta” for this, (especially given their daily video growth rate). Snapchat has come a long way pretty fast, since starting with personal stories, then personal plus professional, and now curated live stories with Discover, which brands can sponsor.

While Snapchat may have the perfect trifecta, the other services highlighted in the report such as Instagram, Periscope and Facebook-Live all represent a similar theme of incredibly high user growth (daily) and the chance for brands to find unique ways to help users engage with consumers. For example, “Love at First Bite” from KFC, and “World AIDS Day – Join the Fight” from (RED) had tremendous lift and engagement for those respective brands.

Of course, the report also highlighted Candace Payne in the Chewbacca mask and how that user-generated content demonstrated a new order of magnitude to viewing and sharing. I have long mentioned these tools as great ways to help consumers engage with each other as well as with brands. But we are still only at the tip of the iceberg.

Meeker went on to talk about the impact of a paradigm shift for live broadcasting. The advent of Periscope, Facebook-Live and Twitter’s integration of near real-time replays (now real-time as well) is changing how consumers can engage with each other for live events as well as share. Again, we’ve seen this coming as I have pointed out in a few posts. And as frequent readers of my column know, I have been very bullish on the opportunities for live events + streaming + sharing.

As Meeker pointed out, “Live sports viewing has always been social. In many ways it’s just getting started.” I couldn’t agree more. She highlighted how viewers are able to watch live events from the sidelines, live-stream and wrap it all with social media tools and share in real-time. As brands get behind this for the upcoming sports and other big live event season, we start to see just how big an impact it will have.

The big platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram) will be rolling out new features in the coming months for the Fall sports season. The NFL will be broadcasting Thursday night games live on Twitter and functionality will include (not confirmed) live analysis, replays and notifications. Remember when I wrote about Twitter’s acquisition of SnappyTV to build out their replay services? Bundle those replay services with live broadcasts and more sharing tools, and this season’s social sharing for big games and other live events should be through the roof.

These are just two areas of real-time video, messaging and sharing that marketers should be very excited about testing in the second half of this year and certainly well beyond. We are still early in this space and there is a lot to be built and designed. The more brands get in early and test, the better chances they have for helping guide platform partners like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and many others. There are going to be a lot more tools for brands and their agencies to come up with cool and compelling ways to engage with consumers.

I encourage you to review “The 2016 Internet Trends Report” as a way to start thinking how you will engage in a rapidly growing marketing and entertainment realm.

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