The Future of Live Sports: Why Streaming is a Touchdown for Advertisers

As advertisers follow consumers and sports content providers to streaming services, they are discovering the potential of streaming to reach new audiences.

Streaming isn’t just a growing trend—it’s an undeniable reality. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of the U.S. population currently uses streaming services and that number is projected to grow, according to Insider Intelligence. In 2022, the industry witnessed a milestone moment when Nielsen reported that, for the first time, streaming TV viewership surpassed that of both cable and broadcast TV.

The NFL took notice of this seismic shift last year when it signed its first-ever exclusive national broadcast deal with a digital streaming service, making Prime Video the new home of “Thursday Night Football” (TNF) in 2022. The launch of Prime Video’s first of 11 seasons of TNF points to the future of live sports: The opening game was the most-streamed NFL game ever, drawing a larger digital audience than Super Bowl LVI.

As advertisers follow consumers and sports content providers to streaming services, they are discovering the potential of streaming to reach new audiences, gain deeper insights and deliver innovative ad experiences. Here’s how TNF on Prime Video showcases the opportunity of live sports on streaming.

Reach a younger, more engaged adult audience

For sports content providers like the NFL, streaming represents a way to reach cord-cutting audiences and cultivate a new generation of fans.

The first season of TNF on Prime Video reported 12% higher viewership among the traditionally hard-to-reach 18-to-34 age group, compared with the previous season of TNF. Moreover, younger viewers didn’t just stop by while flipping channels; from pre-game to in-game and post-game, TNF won in the 18-to-34 demographic all night long.

The audience for TNF on Prime Video also tended to have a higher household income and a higher female audience composition, according to Nielsen data. Further, TNF audiences engaged with the broadcast for an average of 85 minutes, 12% longer than linear NFL broadcasts—generating more opportunities for advertisers to reach this audience.

But it’s not just the length of engagement that advertisers may value—it’s the quality of that engagement. TNF viewers were 33% more likely to search for brands and products advertised during the game than viewers of ads on linear channels.

These advantages are primarily a result of the demographics of consumers who adopt over-the-top (OTT)/streaming services, but also are a product of the innovation that streaming unlocks.

Improve viewer experience through innovation

Volume and quality of viewership are inextricably linked to viewer experience. Streaming services offer the potential to enhance viewer experience through a variety of content and ad tech innovations.

On the content side, TNF on Prime Video featured multiple alternative stream offerings, allowing viewers to choose how they watch the game. For example, voice capabilities on Fire TVs allowed audiences to access game stats in real time, just by voice command.

On the ad tech side, the tools are even more powerful. Through audience-based creative, TNF enabled national advertisers to segment massive NFL audiences into customized cohorts using Amazon Ads audience insights. As a result, advertisers were able to present tailored creative to audience segments, based on geographic, demographic and behavioral signals.

For instance, an automotive brand can run a sports-car ad to a young-adult segment, an SUV spot to a sports-and-outdoors segment and an overarching brand spot to all other TNF viewers—simultaneously during the same 30-second window. Additionally, after the game, brands can continue to engage these custom audiences with tailored creative across Amazon channels and thousands of third-party websites through Amazon Ads.

TNF on Prime Video also connected viewing with commerce, providing a dedicated fan store page on In 2023, Amazon will expand the available interactive ad offerings, giving viewers more ways to interact with a brand’s call-to-action (CTA) without ever leaving the TNF stream.

These innovations can allow advertisers to create more relevant ad experiences for viewers, sustain engagement beyond the game and enable viewers to interact with ads to learn more and shop, turning viewership into more active participation.

Prove impact through holistic insights

Traditionally, advertising during sports broadcasts on linear TV has been a broad awareness play, often without specific attributable results. In this way, streaming represents a game changer for live sports advertising.

During linear broadcasts, advertisers can reach an audience, but it’s difficult for them to understand what effect their ads have. Digital advertising has exploded in the past decade because it’s able to provide greater specificity into the performance of a campaign, including the concrete actions that an ad has driven. Streaming brings together the scale of linear broadcasts with the measurement capabilities of digital.

For TNF on Prime Video, Amazon’s first-party insights allowed brands to learn more about their audiences and to understand their shopping journey from viewing a commercial through to actual purchase. Opportunities to engage audiences continued after the game, as advertisers continued to reach customers in Amazon’s store and with publishers across the internet.

Moreover, advertisers can use insights to inform real-time marketing decisions, through Amazon Marketing Cloud (AMC), a data clean room, where marketers can find campaign impact insights, analyze data and make optimizations. All of this allows advertisers to reach relevant audiences more effectively, while understanding the impact of their ad spend.

TNF on Prime Video illustrates the future of live sports and the opportunities it can unlock for advertisers. As more live sports migrate to streaming—for instance, soccer’s Premier League and UEFA Champions League also stream on Prime Video in certain markets outside the U.S.—brands will discover the power of streaming to reach new audiences, create innovative advertising moments and gain deeper insights about their consumers.

This article was originally published June 22, 2023 on AdAge, written by Danielle Carney.

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