Thursday Night Football: Why Amazon Prime will stream Bears vs. Packers on Sept. 28

You can watch Aaron Rodgers online Thursday night — if you’re an Amazon Prime member.

Amazon Prime is best known for its hot deals, free shipping, and award-winning dramas confusingly labeled as “comedies.” On Thursday, it will add “NFL purveyor” to that list.

The online marketplace will play host to Week 4’s Bears-Packers game for the first time in its history, marking its splash into the competitive field of football broadcasting. Thursday’s game will be the first of 11 simulcast on the streaming giant, per an agreement made back in April.

How much did it cost? A lot more than last year. Amazon Prime isn’t the first ubiquitous online site to beam the NFL worldwide. Twitter was the home of a handful of 2016 broadcasts, allowing users to watch the Jaguars in all their pee chart-colored glory while scrolling through all the hot takes they could handle.

Replacing Twitter wasn’t cheap; the abbreviated social networking site paid $10 million to stream 10 games in 2016. This spring, Amazon upped that ante to $50 million for the rights to one more game.

Can you still watch the game if you’re not an Amazon Prime subscriber? Only Amazon Prime subscribers can stream it on Amazon, but there are other ways to watch the game for everyone else.

The shift from cable to an online provider whose streaming service also allows you to stream Chopping Mall with a single click may seem like a stretch, but this experiment will reach more fans across the globe than last week’s Thursday Night Football broadcast. The NFL’s model is to have a “tri-cast” strategy that allows viewers to watch on broadcast television (NBC/CBS/FOX), cable networks (ESPN/NFL Network), and the internet (Yahoo!, Twitter, Amazon Prime).

So while these games can be found online at the same site where you just watched season four of The Sopranos, you’ll also be able to catch your local product on terrestrial channels or through premium cable with NFLN.

Every game that streams on Amazon will be available on NFL Network, too. Five of the 11 games will also air on CBS, while the other six will air on NBC, including a Monday matchup on Christmas Day.

Which games will Amazon stream this year? Here are the dates, matchups, and TV broadcasts for the 11 games that will be available on Amazon:

Weeks 4-8
Sept. 28: Bears vs. Packers (NFLN and CBS)
Oct. 5: Patriots vs. Buccaneers (NFLN and CBS)
Oct. 12: Eagles vs. Panthers (NFLN and CBS)
Oct. 19: Chiefs vs. Raiders (NFLN and CBS)
Oct. 26: Dolphins vs. Ravens (NFLN and CBS)

Weeks 10-11, 13-16
Nov. 9: Seahawks vs. Cardinals (NFLN and NBC)
Nov. 16: Titans vs. Steelers (NFLN and NBC)
Nov. 30: Washington vs. Cowboys (NFLN and NBC)
Dec. 7: Saints vs. Falcons (NFLN and NBC)
Dec. 14: Broncos vs. Colts (NFLN and NBC)
Dec. 25: Steelers vs. Texans (NFLN and NBC)

Should we expect Amazon to stream more sports? Even if the company strikes a deal to exclusively broadcast Thursday games, its reach may soon be greater than two of the league’s most prominent channels. Recent estimates suggest there are anywhere from 65 million to 80 million people who are Amazon Prime members. Comparatively, 88 million people have cable subscriptions that include ESPN. In 2016, 60 million subscribers paid for the NFL Network.

Amazon Prime won’t be replacing the league’s broadcasts, but a successful run as a supplement could lead to more sports programming for the online giant. Rumors have connected the company to English Premier League soccer rights, and Twitter’s shift to MLB and college football broadcasts in 2017 could signal what the next steps are after earning an NFL contract. Amazon, which charges most Prime members $99 per year, has the benefit of being a subscription service — and an expanded fan base means expanding revenue.

That means the $50 million the company spent to broadcast three hours of Mike Glennon check-downs is an investment — and a sign of things to come for professional sports on the internet.

Via SBNation.com