Amazon, NFL Get Decent Audience for League's Streaming-Only Debut

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals
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The NFL's first game to air exclusively on a streaming outlet drew a decent-sized audience on Saturday — one in line with games aired on the league's NFL Network.

The matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals drew an average audience of 4.8 million viewers on Amazon's Prime Video and Twitch platforms and mobile properties run by the NFL, the two teams and Verizon. Local over-the-air stations in San Francisco and Phoenix also carried the game, bringing the total audience to 5.9 million, per the NFL.

The league also says 11.2 million people watched at least some portion of the game on Prime Video and Twitch. The 4.8 million "average minute audience" — the closest streaming analog to Nielsen ratings for traditional TV — is the highest ever digital viewership for an NFL regular season game.

By comparison, the four 2020 regular season games (prior to Saturday) that aired exclusively on the NFL Network and home-market broadcast affiliates averaged 5.56 million viewers.

The NFL also noted that viewers streamed more than 800 million minutes during the game — a figure that would put the contest in Nielsen's streaming top 10 most weeks.

Amazon has been an NFL streaming partner for several years, but prior to Saturday it was never the primary outlet for a regular season game. There has been speculation that Amazon or another streamer could become a bigger player in the league's next round of media rights negotiations, possibly taking on the Thursday primetime package currently held by Fox and NFL Network.

ESPN's current contract for Monday Night Football is up after the 2021 season. CBS, Fox and NBC will come up for renewal a year later, although both the NFL and its broadcast partners are likely to seek a new deal ahead of the deadline.