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Amazon’s ‘Thursday Night Football’ is a hit

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - NOVEMBER 01: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs reacts before the start of the first half against the New York Giants at Arrowhead Stadium on November 01, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Amazon hit it big with its “Thursday Night Football” debut.

The tech giant’s first exclusive NFL game, which saw the Kansas City Chiefs edge out the Los Angeles Chargers 27 to 24, averaged 13 million viewers last Thursday, according to Nielsen.

Amazon added that, per its “first party measurement and Nielsen, across all platforms” the game drew slightly more fans, averaging 15.3 million viewers.

Jay Marine, Prime Video’s head of sports, wrote in an internal memo last week that the debut “exceeded all of our expectations for viewership” and led to “the biggest three hours for US Prime sign ups ever in the history of Amazon.”

This is a big win for Amazon, as well as for streaming and the NFL.

For the first time, the NFL — TV’s most valuable product — is carving out a package of games exclusively on digital — which is already how millions of viewers get their entertainment and the likely future of television itself. These numbers show that the sport can be a big draw on digital as well as on old fashioned TV. (Fans in the participating teams’ markets are still able to watch on their local broadcast stations.)

Thursday’s debut is also an example of how Amazon is boosting its Prime Video investment as it broadens its footprint in the streaming marketplace.

The company has spent billions fortifying its streaming offerings across multiple fronts. That includes feature films via Amazon Studios as well as buying MGM, producing TV series, including its new — and very expensive — “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” and live sports, with “Thursday Night Football” as well as games from other leagues.

The NFL deal with Amazon was one of several that the league signed with its media partners in March 2021, agreements that cover 11 years and are valued at more than $100 billion.