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Nielsen, Amazon strike three-year pact to measure ‘Thursday Night Football’

The NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” may be moving to Amazon, but it’s going to be measured as if it were still playing on traditional TV.

Nielsen and Amazon have struck a three-year deal to measure Prime Video’s new season of “Thursday Night Football” and stack it up against TV programs with national audiences tabulated by the media-measurement giant. The pact comes as many of the nation’s big media companies have vociferously expressed disapproval of Nielsen’s efforts in the streaming era and tried to prod advertisers to consider other forms of audience measurement.

Nielsen said the agreement marks the first time a streaming service will have one of its live programs measured as part of the company’s measurement of national TV audiences. Starting with the 2022 season, Nielsen will measure viewership for Amazon Prime Video’s full game broadcast, as well as pregame and postgame programming. Nielsen will also measure activity around the shows on Amazon’s Twitch gaming outlet as well as activity on local TV stations in the teams’ home markets. So-called “out of home” viewership — people who watch content in bars, offices, hotels and the like, will also be measured.

“Our collaboration with Nielsen will allow us to provide advertisers with familiar campaign measurement to make apples-to-apples comparisons across their multi-channel media investments,” said Srishti Gupta, director of media measurement for Amazon Ads, in a prepared statement. “Additionally, advertisers will have access to metrics from Amazon that will provide actionable insights to understand brand awareness, engagement, and sales. This powerful combination of first and third-party measurement is something only Amazon can provide.”

Amazon is offering Nielsen data after making an aggressive bid to woo top ad dollars for its Thursday-night games. The company’s push to win ad prices that are on par with Fox’s hefty fees for 30-second ads on its Sunday afternoon NFL telecasts earned some rebuke from Madison Avenue during the industry’s annual “upfront” process, when TV networks try to sell the bulk of their commercial inventory ahead of their next cycle of new programming.

Amazon took over the rights from Fox, which won them after NBC and CBS had been splitting the games. It’s no secret in the TV business that none of the broadcast networks turned a profit on the Thursday games, but rather used them as a sort of high-priced hedge to sell costlier commercials and promote other parts of their schedule to sizable audiences. Executives at Fox have made no bones about the property’s financial drag. On a recent investor call, Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch said Fox’s “early exit” from “Thursday Night Football” — Fox could have continued showing games on its flagship broadcast network for one more season rather than ceding rights to Amazon — would create “financial tailwinds” for his company in 2023.

Meanwhile, Amazon has been dressing up the games, luring top talent from NBC Sports, ESPN, Fox Sports and Turner Sports. Among those on the Prime Video game-day roster are the legendary Al Michaels, as well as Kirk Herbstreit, Charissa Thompson and Taylor Rooks. In most cases, the sportscasters have been allowed to continue the jobs they already have with Amazon’s competitors.

Nielsen’s ability to secure the deal is likely to boost perceptions of the measurement giant after many of its top TV customers have encouraged advertisers to consider new audience measures provided by upstarts and rivals such as ComScore, iSpot and VideoAmp. NBCUniversal, Paramount Global and Warner Bros. Discovery are among the traditional media companies that have offered new measurement system to those advertisers and media buyers willing to consider an alternative.

Nielsen said it would begin measuring “Thursday Night Football” on Amazon starting with its August 25 preseason game that features the San Francisco 49ers squaring off against the Houston Texans. Amazon’s first exclusive season of “TNF” is scheduled to start September 15 when the Los Angeles Chargers take on the Kansas City Chiefs.

“Nielsen is the long-time leader in the measurement space, providing gold-standard currency to the media industry and we’re thrilled that Amazon recognizes that and is working with us to bring a streaming service into our National TV measurement for the first time ever,” said Deirdre Thomas, Nielsen’s managing director of U.S. audience measurement product sales, Nielsen, in a statement. “We are committed to delivering comparable, comprehensive measurement of all audiences, across all platforms, and this agreement to measure TNF viewership is a testament to that commitment.” Variety

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