After years of preparations, the NFL crossed a digital rubicon on Thursday with its first "Thursday Night Football" game streamed on Amazon Prime. It's the first time a game has been carried exclusively by a streaming service.
That potentially industry-changing move was bound to come with some growing pains and critics, but the league at least found a good game to get started with the Los Angeles Chargers visiting the Kansas City Chiefs in a battle of elite quarterbacks.
Amazon, which is paying $1 billion per year for the rights to stream the Thursday games, clearly spared no expense for its big move. It hired broadcasting legend Al Michaels to do play-by-play. It brought in ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit to do his first pro games. It created a studio show of notable NFL names like Richard Sherman.
The gargantuan company did whatever it could to make it feel like a real NFL broadcast, but that didn't mean it was going to feel normal.
NFL fans review Amazon's 'Thursday Night Football' stream
As the stream began, fans were quick to note just how uncanny the whole experience seemed.
Hearing Kirk Herbstreit on a NFL game is going to take a second to get used to.
— Jane Coaston (@janecoaston) September 16, 2022
Sad to be missing a critical part of the NFL experience (getting exposed to all the weird-ass shows airing on network television this season)
— Emma Baccellieri (@emmabaccellieri) September 16, 2022
Imagine telling Al Michaels in 1980, of the “do you believe in miracles” fame, that in 2022 he would be calling NFL games on THURSDAY nights for an internet shopping website company.
How hard would he have laughed? #thursdaynightfootball
— Larry Brown (@LBSports) September 16, 2022
Hearing Kirk Herbstreit on an NFL game is strange, like when your gym teacher had to sub in English class
— Terence Malangone (@SpikeMal) September 16, 2022
There were also more than a few people who needed help finding the game in the first place. Booting up a Prime Video stream is easy for some, but it's easy to see how it could be a complicated task for less tech-savvy fans, especially those who didn't have a Prime membership.
Raise your hand if your dad has called because he “can’t get get the game to work.” 🙋♂️
— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) September 16, 2022
Just so they know my 87-year-old mom isn’t happy about this viewing arrangement. pic.twitter.com/s7x00Qp97c
— Mike Klis (@mikeklis) September 16, 2022
There was a decent amount of stuff to like, especially when you consider it's a first-time effort for a recently assembled booth. Viewers (including this writer) had mostly good experiences with the picture quality and hardcore fans loved the "Prime Vision" viewing option that introduced all-22 angles.
As usual, Michaels was a plus too.
I honestly didn't know something could stream this clear. Quality on Amazon's broadcast is unreal. Looks better than cable.
— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) September 16, 2022
Now the upside of the Amazon broadcast: The picture quality, at least on my TV, is freaking incredible.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 16, 2022
Enjoying the all-22 camera angles, player ID tags, and stats/info on the Amazon feed.
Nice features to have live during a game. pic.twitter.com/Wiz0N3zKfe
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) September 16, 2022
Oh wow, the @PrimeonNFL “Prime Vision” is outstanding.
All-22 angles, player mapping, advanced stats throughout, and much more.
— Eric Galko (@EricGalko) September 16, 2022
How did Amazon luck out? Al Michaels just falls into your lap when you start up your NFL broadcasts? Even at 77, the best in the business.
— Babe Laufenberg (@BabeLaufenberg) September 16, 2022
Al Michaels giving craps tutorials ... I won't stop smiling for a while over that one. Legend.
— Frank Schwab (@YahooSchwab) September 16, 2022
I love the Kirk Herbstreit/Al Michaels combo
— Payoff Willy (@_willcompton) September 16, 2022
There was just as much said about the bad, though. There were several complaints with the sound quality and mixing, especially with the acoustics at the notoriously loud Arrowhead Stadium. Fans also seemed to feel like the energy of the whole production was subdued too, though some admitted that to be a subjective judgement.
First impression of @NFLonPrime pregame coverage heading into kickoff: Top quality. Big talents. Near-perfect execution on far as streaming, etc.
But I sensed an absence of energy + creativity from cast. Almost like they over-rehearsed - and left it in the studio before game.
— Michael McCarthy (@MMcCarthyREV) September 16, 2022
One criticism I’ve heard of the @amazon #NFL broadcast tonight: the stadium acoustics feel weird. Not crisp. The sound of the stadium isn’t really coming through the way it does on NBC’s primetime games. Between snaps it feels dead. It makes the broadcast feel a little lethargic.
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) September 16, 2022
Amazon needs to work on the crowd audio. Arrowhead's one of the loudest places in the league but it sounds like the fans are a half-mile away.
— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) September 16, 2022
Watching football on Prime is such a bleak experience. You're bombarded with Amazon logos, breaks full of ads for Amazon shows & Amazon products like Ring & AWS, camera cuts to Bezos with Al Michaels calling him a "great mathematical mind" & for some reason Dude Perfect is there.
— jordan (@JordanUhl) September 16, 2022
Amazon broadcast has less energy. Can't explain why, doesn't make sense
— Arif Hasan, not a psyop 🧑💼 (@ArifHasanNFL) September 16, 2022
The audio in #thursdaynightfootball is all screwy. They badly need to turn up the mics for Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit.
Audio for the studio team is loud and clear, but not for the game announcers
— Larry Brown (@LBSports) September 16, 2022
The regular Amazon broadcast sounds like golf, or you can lean into the somehow way quieter Dude Perfect version and fall right asleep
— Jason Kirk (@thejasonkirk) September 16, 2022
So the first Amazon Prime exclusive NFL stream was a mixed bag. Fortunately, the streamer has 15 more games to figuring things out.