My new column is live at The Drum:
Amazon’s dismal NFL audience shows that TV’s naysayers deserve penalties
“Views” is a useless metric. I “view” ads on social media networks as I quickly scroll past them. I “view” banner ads on websites as I consequently ignore them. I “view” every TV show that I see for half a second as I channel hunt with the remote control.
But tell that to many of the media reporters who covered Amazon Prime’s global live-streaming of the first of eleven Thursday Night Football games during this season of American football. The New York Post, Fortune magazine, and Reuters, for example, all highlighted NFL figures stating that a reported 1.9m people “viewed” the kickoff show.
At first glance, the number looked impressive — especially for a tech company’s first foray into big-league sports programming, which cost Amazon a reported $50 million for the total package. The result seemed to lend credence to the opinions of people such as creative director JP Manterola and MobiTV chief executive Charlie Nooney who think that sports will soon be watched online along with everything else. (Of course, the latter has an obvious bias.)
But the picture becomes fuzzier as one digs more deeply.
Todd Spangler of Variety and Peter Kafka of Recode wrote two of the best media reviews of the event. Their articles put the right numbers in the correct context and stated that the average audience watching Thursday Night Football for at least 30 seconds on Amazon Prime Video was 372,000, with each person watching an average of 55 minutes.
In other words, Amazon lost roughly 80% of the audience following the kickoff show – people likely wanted to check out the newest shiny object and then left to watch the rest of the game on television. Spangler and Kafka deserve credit for discussing average viewership in their stories and not highlighting the sensationalist 1.9m number instead.