Insight Richard Craill January 16, 2024 (Comments off) (371)

Why NASCARs switch to Amazon should work

AMIDST the headline news late last year that NASCAR’s brand-new TV deal was worth more than $1billion per year, came the almost as important news that five mid-season races will be shown exclusively on Amazon prime.

While Motorsport has dabbled with streaming rights deals in the past they have always tended to include a traditional broadcast element – the Fox Sports to Kayo or the Channel 9 to Stan Sport being the local cases in point.

And yet NASCAR has gone all-in, allowing Amazon to purchase exclusivity.

There is also almost no doubt it will work.

Amidst the gnashing of teeth and flailing of opinions on social media about how going to streaming is bad for the sport and removes the potential for casual audiences to view, the sheer weight of numbers Amazon enjoys has been somewhat underplayed.

And those numbers will almost guarantee success.

The US TV Audience is enormous. Amazon is enormouser.

ACCORDING to recent reports, 129.3 million US homes have access to a television, while 60.9 million of those have access to cable TV – the US’s version of Foxtel, just larger.

That second number is concerning because a decade ago it was over 100 million people; the number of cable subscribers decreasing more than 13 percent in the last year alone.

Under NASCAR’s new TV deal, four races each will be shown on the freely available FOX and NBC networks, with the remainder of their share of races and the five-race stint owned by TNT in the middle of the year, broadcast on their respective cable networks; FS1 and NBC Sports / USA Network.

So, pretty good, right? Nearly 130 million homes will have access to all the big races on free-to-air, while more than 60 million will have access to a vast majority of the remainder.

This sounds great until you learn that in the United States alone, Amazon Prime has an estimated 167.2 million subscribers.

Now, while this doesn’t equate in the same ways as a household owning a TV, it does mean that basically half of the United States’ current 331 million people have a Prime account on their computer, phone, smart TV or elsewhere.

That’s 167 million people who could possibly watch a NASCAR race – or at least, know it’s going to be on the next time they go online shopping.

The NFL juggernaut proves the point

THE NFL is the big dog in global TV sports, so when they sold their Thursday night football slot exclusively to Amazon during their last rights negotiations, people paid notice.

And it appears to have paid off for both, with Amazon announcing a record audience for the Dallas Cowboys vs Seattle Seahawks clash late last year.

Amazon announced that an average audience of 15.26 million tuned in for the match, peaking at over 17.7 million. It makes it the most streamed NFL game in history.

These are big numbers and proof that people are adapting – last year, Amazon reported an average audience of 9.58 million for their first season of the Thursday Night games.

In the same week, NBC’s staple Sunday Night Football (which, by the way, has the best opening theme tune and subsequent theme music in sport) drew 19.6 million to the Packers v Chiefs match, their largest in 8 weeks.

ABC and ESPN drew 28 million to the Philadelphia vs Kansas City Monday Night Football clash while FOX regularly draws more than 20 million to their slots.

(As an aside, it’s worth noting that in week 11 of the NFL, the top five most-watched games – all drawing more than 12 Million viewers – were on five different networks: ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS and Amazon Prime, dispelling any real chat that spreading your rights across multiple networks is bad for viewership. If people want to watch, they’ll find it.)

While Amazon still trails the mainstream broadcast networks, the fact that more than 15 million tuned into a game, and that their numbers are building, is proof that being streamed only is not an impediment to viewership.

This is why NASCAR can’t really fail

REGARDLESS of what the NASCAR numbers tell us when this new deal kicks off in 2025, the NFL’s success at transitioning their audience to an exclusive streaming package means NASCAR is in a good place.

The middle five races Amazon owns aren’t the most watched anyway, so even maintaining a consistent audience from their current arrangement will be classified a victory, especially given they’re making more money for it anyway.

There are a few ways NASCAR can lose from this deal, and for that reason, it will be of great interest in this part of the world, too.

Amazon in Australia isn’t as big as America. Not yet…

AMAZON claims 4.6 million subscribers to their Prime service in Australia, which is a lot.

The entire Foxtel Group claimed 4.732m in their recent fourth quarter reporting – with the most notable numbers for motorsport fans being the 1.41m subscribers on Kayo, the 1.34m subscribers to the traditional ‘residential’ packages and the 177,000 who subscribe only to Foxtel Now.

This amounts to 2.97 million people who can watch motorsport on Foxtel’s services.

So, imagine Amazon comes along and swoops up the Australian Formula 1 rights or, potentially, the next round of Supercars media rights, which are up for grabs in the next two years.

What it would mean is that – at least from the pay-to-view side of things – there would be a larger potential audience than what the sport currently enjoys.

Food for thought.

Amazon is here, and it’s not going anywhere. And people are watching it.

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