Don’t want Joe Buck and Troy Aikman for the Bears-Cowboys game? Hey Alexa, have Amazon Prime Video deliver Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer.

Chicago Tribune Sports 1 week ago

Bears fans, Amazon Prime wants to deliver something to you Thursday night that can’t be stolen from your doorstep.

It’s a live stream of the Cowboys-Bears game with a variety of announcers from which to choose, including not just Joe Buck and Troy Aikman but Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer.

Let’s see those cardboard boxes in the Amazon ads sing about that.

The Cowboys-Bears game has landed on Amazon as part and parcel of the $130 million, two-year deal Amazon cut with the NFL last year for supplementary rights to 11 “Thursday Night Football” games per season.

For Amazon, this business arrangement is yet another chance to wedge itself deeper into its consumers’ lives and potentially expand its business, assuming that’s possible.

(Plus, if Amazon chief Jeff Bezos is interested in someday owning an NFL team, as reported, it can’t hurt to have his company cozy up to the league, although that didn’t help Disney boss Bob Iger’s effort.)

For the NFL, which is in no hurry to bail on traditional TV and/or cable but not blind to shifts in media consumption that may accelerate going forward, this is both found money and a foothold.

The Cowboys-Bears game will be on Fox and NFL Network, per usual.

But, in addition, the prime-time matchup of 6-6 NFC disappointments is the e-commerce giant’s penultimate NFL offering for 2019, with the Ravens set to close out Amazon’s streaming season with a probable dismantling of the hapless Jets next week.

Buck and Aikman will do their thing for Fox and NFL Network, and their announcing also will be available for Amazon Prime subscribers who have enough bandwidth to keep the action from freezing, lagging or pixelating.

But, as long as they’re up for experimentation, Prime Video streamers may wish to avail themselves of Amazon’s other options.

Not content with the usual streaming sales pitch of being able to watch “Thursday Night Football” via mobile phone, tablet, laptop computer, desktop computer or internet-friendly smart TV, Amazon has made other “TNF” possibilities just a click away.

One alternative is running commentary from veteran sportscasters Storm and Kremer, the 2018 winner of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award. They are back for their second season announcing “TNF” games on Amazon, working from monitors in a Connecticut studio.

“Hannah and Andrea raised the bar last year as they became the first all-woman team to call NFL games,” Marie Donoghue, Amazon’s vice president of global sports video, said in a statement earlier this year. “Customer feedback has been great.”

Because Amazon makes its NFL games available in many countries around the world, it also offers a UK audio feed featuring Derek Rae and Tommy Smyth, who are Scottish and Irish, respectively. There’s also a Spanish-language call.

It’s all supplemented by Prime Video’s so-called X-Ray feature, which normally offers viewers quick access to details about the movie or TV show they’re watching, such as the cast in a given scene or the title and artist for a song playing in the background.

Bears fans can expect X-Ray to provide Amazon’s Next Gen Stats as they become relevant, something perhaps along the lines of Tarik Cohen’s yards-after-contact data.

It’s all a work in progress, and from the outside it’s hard to know how it’s going. Just how many people are watching NFL games this season on Amazon isn’t clear.

While industry estimates say more than 100 million households are springing for Amazon Prime and more than a quarter of those homes take advantage of its video offerings.

Amazon isn’t talking about 2019, but it previously said that its 11 “TNF” games in 2018 reached 24.4 million total viewers between Prime Video and Twitch, its video-game channel featuring user-generated commentary. That’s 33% better than its 2017 streams fared.

The company also said more than 500,000 of its 2018 streamers watched at least 30 seconds of any given NFL game, which is a 61% year-over-year improvement. Amazon said that pool of viewers watched an average of 59 minutes each.

It did not break out a figure for how many opted specifically for, say, the Storm-Kremer feed or for how long.

But the idea of using its platform to give consumers something unique that can be customized is smart.

The New York Post on Wednesday reported Amazon is teaming up with the Yankees to enable fans in their home market to watch some games through mobile devices and computers without a cable subscription, possibly as soon as next season.

One of its other sports streaming deals, a package of English Premiere League games, launched Tuesday.

The website reported many fans loved the stats and other features Amazon provided, but some “complained about constant buffering and their stream being some way behind the actual live events.”

So maybe that’s something to look for on “Thursday Night Football."

Who runs more effectively: the Bears, the Cowboys or Amazon Prime’s stream?

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