There are few things in life Americans love more than football. Like a flock of sheep to their shepherd, Americans will watch football wherever the NFL tells them to, which on Thursdays is on Amazon Prime, as of recently. Despite a barrage of complaints and fury from fans and critics over the technical glitches that hit last Thursday’s game, Amazon’s first broadcast was a massive success for the company.
The ecommerce giant saw a huge surge of signups for its Prime subscription membership, which is required to watch TNF, during the three-hour long game, according to an internal company email seen by Gizmodo. The signups broke records at Amazon, surpassing those on Prime Day, Cyber Monday, and Black Friday.
The total number of new Amazon Prime subscribers was not disclosed in the internal email, nor was the total amount of viewers for Thursday Night Football’s first game, which featured the Kansas City Chiefs vs. the Los Angeles Chargers (27 - 24). The internal email noted that Amazon was still waiting for Nielsen to deliver its official ratings for the game.
The new Prime signups are no doubt a ray of good news for Amazon, which has turned into a digital punching bag for some football fans in recent days. For starters, some fans needed help actually finding the game’s livestream on Amazon Prime. As someone who also gets lost on Amazon’s behemoth site sometimes, I can empathize. As reported by IndieWire, fans who tuned to Amazon’s TNF broadcast complained that features such as “motion smoothing” were still on even though they had turned them off. Others said that the image was “pixelated and fuzzy,” that the video and sound weren’t synched up properly, and that the video kept freezing.
One complaint I found particularly funny and ironic was from The Ringer writer Rodger Sherman who commented that a “stunning” amount of ads on Amazon Prime’s TNF broadcast were for… Amazon Prime.
Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated highlighted complaints from users who said they couldn’t start the game from the beginning if they tuned in late. Pro Football Talks’ Mike Florio said something similar happened to him when he went to the bathroom and tried to rewind to catch up when he got back. He managed to do this, but then couldn’t figure out how to fast forward to the live game.
Not everyone experienced problems with the Amazon’s TNF broadcast. Some said it worked fine and delivered a great experience. And when it comes to those who had problems, it’s hard to know whether it was Amazon’s fault or whether they just didn’t have their settings configured the right way. In this case though, I agree with Sports Illustrated when it comes to tech issues (minus the caps).
“I DON’T WANT TO HAVE TO DO THIS NONSENSE TO WATCH A FOOTBALL GAME!” wrote SI’s Jimmy Traina, who was not alone in his frustration.
Amazon said the wave of viewers surpassed even its own expectations, but it’s clear that the streamer did not consider the number of fans TNF would attract to its platform or their expectations when watching football. Considering that Amazon is spending $1 billion a year—for a whopping 11 years—to be one of the NFL’s official broadcasters, it’s baffling that the company didn’t anticipate these potential user problems and plan ahead to ensure a smooth and easy experience.
Many have pointed out that growing pains are to be expected. Amazon is the first of the streaming platforms to be an exclusive provider of a package of NFL games, and considering how many records it broke that night, there were a lot of people on its platform. Americans love football and they will go wherever the games are shown. That’s what $1 billion a year can buy you: Fans that will grudgingly stick with you no matter how much they complain.