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NFL streaming: Amazon, ESPN viewership lags behind networks ahead of Super Bowl

Yahoo Finance’s Allie Canal joins the Live show to discuss NFL viewership ahead of the Super Bowl.

Video transcript

JULIE HYMAN: Well, switching gears, Super Bowl 57 just two weeks away with the Kansas City Chiefs set to play the Philadelphia Eagles, to Brad's delight. The event is often one of the biggest draws to national television. But with millions of households cutting the cord and competition among streaming providers heating up, viewership is expected to play out differently in 2023. Yahoo Finance's Allie Canal has the details. Hey, Allie. So--

ALLIE CANAL: Hey.

JULIE HYMAN: --what have we seen so far in terms of viewership trends?

ALLIE CANAL: Well, number one, Brad, I am also a huge Eagles fan, so go Birds. But yes, there has been an acceleration in cord cutting. There has been this decline in linear television overall. But when we talk about sports, the numbers don't lie here, especially when we look at those traditional cable operators, those traditional cable networks.

According to Nielsen data cited by those networks, we actually see that there's been an uptick in NFL viewership over this past year. NBC, which airs those primetime games, averaging around 19.9 million viewers per week. CBS and Fox in those early afternoon games, 18.5 and 19.4 million respectively. And then for those later 4:00 PM games, CBS and Fox averaging each about 24 million. And just to put that all in perspective, that's NBC's highest NFL viewership since 2019, top viewership for CBS since 2015, and top viewership for Fox since 2016.

So, folks are clearly still tuning in. And then if you compare that to Amazon Prime, which we know signed that 11-year $13 billion deal with the NFL for Thursday Night Football, along with ESPN, which airs NFL's Monday night games on cable, NBC, CBS, and Fox still reign supreme. Amazon's Thursday Night games averaging around $9.6 million-- 9.6 million viewers, I should say, weekly. And then ESPN Monday Night, 13.4 million viewers. And those numbers, they're both down compared to 2021 with Thursday Night Football slipping 41% year over year. And that's really the concern.

What do we make with those Amazon Prime numbers? We saw a lot of success in the beginning of this season, the most signups for Prime for that first week of Thursday Night Football. But then we saw that significant drop-off, and there is this uncertainty right now in the current landscape with media, with streaming.

And you do have to wonder if the NFL's alienating some of those fans by signing these exclusive streaming packages. But at the same time, I think it's clear that they want to diversify their broadcast a little bit. They signed that deal with YouTube as well. So I think it's a wait and see approach. And Amazon clearly emphasizing that this is a long-term play for the company, and they're going to learn and grow over time.

BRAD SMITH: Yeah, they put that in their 2021 announcement, saying that they were trying to broaden the league's digital football to a larger audience. And that's when we really got that announcement of many of the network partnerships-- Amazon, CBS, ABC, and ESPN, Fox, and NBC. But all of them have big streaming numbers that they're trying to prop up as well. So what right do they have, or at least, what strategy, I should say, are they trying to implement within getting more streaming viewers for some of the football that they've been able to license out?

ALLIE CANAL: Yeah, and if you think about sports, that's been a big driver of M&A. It's been a big driver overall. If you look at the top 100 programs, 82 out of the 100 are specifically NFL. And then some 94 out of the 100 are sports related. And I think that's why you're seeing these tech giants dabble in sports. It's why you're seeing streaming giants like Netflix explore different opportunities within sports.

But you have to remember that with broadcast, with these sports partnerships, you also have promises that you make to advertisers. And Amazon's viewership fell short of roughly 12 million people that it had promised advertisers that they would reach. So what is the impact of that? What's the fallout for that?

I do think the NFL, it's been looking for a refresh. It's been looking to attract those younger users. A lot of those younger users are on those streaming platforms, but it's going to be-- it's going to take time to really figure out what that means and what this data ultimately means. We're still early days. We're still early in a lot of these contracts, these partnerships. So it's a wait and see right now.

BRAD SMITH: Were you the one that changed the light screen on the Empire State Building?

ALLIE CANAL: I'm not-- I will neither confirm nor deny, but I loved it.

BRAD SMITH: Smart. Your lawyers didn't say you had to answer that question. Allie Canal, thanks very much for joining us, breaking this down.

ALLIE CANAL: Go, Birds.