By JOE REEDY, AP Sports activities Author

Not many individuals get to be a pioneer at 77 years outdated, particularly in sports activities broadcasting.

That would be the case, although, when Al Michaels calls Thursday night time’s sport between the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas Metropolis Chiefs on Prime Video.

The matchup between AFC West rivals kicks off an 11-year settlement between Amazon and the NFL and marks the primary time the league has offered a package deal of video games to a streaming service.

“It wasn’t that way back I had no concept what streaming was, as did numerous us. I discover it thrilling as a result of all of my buddies, my youngsters, and grandkids all assume that is concerning the coolest factor on this planet,” mentioned Michaels, who will group up with Kirk Herbstreit and sideline reporter Kaylee Hartung.

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“I mentioned to any person, ‘They assume we’re coming over the Rockies in a lined wagon.’ I mentioned, ‘We’re coming over the Rockies in broadband. We’re the pioneers.’”

Amazon gained the rights to the prime-time package deal final March. It was initially supposed to start in 2023, together with the remainder of the league’s broadcasting contracts, however two months later, the NFL introduced that Amazon would take over the Thursday night time package deal from Fox a yr earlier.

That left Amazon with 15 months to get every little thing up and operating. It marks the primary time since Fox in 1994 {that a} new broadcasting associate has been introduced into the NFL framework.

For Marie Donoghue, Amazon’s vice chairman of International Sports activities Video, Thursday’s sport marks a rewarding finish of a four-year quest to deliver the NFL to the corporate.

Donoghue was an government VP at ESPN for 19 years and noticed what the NFL might do for Prime Video a lot because it did when ESPN and Fox started carrying video games.

Whereas that is Prime Video’s first important U.S. sports activities package deal — it carries some New York Yankees, Seattle Storm, and Seattle Sounders video games regionally — it has a sturdy worldwide resume.

In the UK, it carries 20 Premier League video games and the U.S. Open tennis event. It can additionally carry a package deal of Champions League video games within the UK starting in 2024. Prime Video already streams the European membership soccer competitors in Italy and Germany.

The largest concern about any occasion that’s streamed stay is video high quality, together with ensuring the infrastructure can deal with the calls for. Jared Stacy, Prime Video’s director of International Stay Sports activities Manufacturing, was already within the manufacturing truck at Arrowhead Stadium Tuesday afternoon going over last preparations, together with masking all contingencies.

Amazon and the NFL even have a previous working historical past. Amazon Net Providers has partnered with the league for Subsequent Gen Stats since 2015, whereas Prime Video has simulcast Thursday night time video games since 2017.

The 15-game package deal averages $1.2 billion per season. That might go up barely starting subsequent yr when the NFL is predicted to schedule a sport for the day after Thanksgiving since “Black Friday” unofficially kicks off the Christmas buying season.

Jon Christian, the EVP for OnPrem, a expertise consulting agency specializing in media and leisure, mentioned the Thursday night time package deal is a good check case for the NFL.

“That is the primary time an NFL sport can be locked behind a streaming subscription service,” he mentioned. “This can eradicate a portion of the viewers that doesn’t have this functionality or Amazon Prime. Will probably be fascinating to see how a lot they acquire from the ‘cord-cutters’ and the way a lot this deal spurs new Amazon Prime subscribers.”

These watching on the Prime Video app on their TVs, telephones, or tablets can entry on-demand statistics and highlights to reinforce the second-screen expertise.

In relation to the precise sport broadcasts, don’t anticipate Amazon to reinvent the wheel with government producer Fred Gaudelli calling the photographs. Will probably be Gaudelli’s 33rd season because the lead producer for an NFL prime-time package deal. He labored on ESPN’s Sunday night time package deal from 1990-2000 and ABC’s “Monday Night time Soccer” from 2001-05 earlier than going to NBC’s “Sunday Night time Soccer” for the previous 16 seasons.

Gaudelli and his manufacturing crew have state-of-the-art gear, together with an ergonomic manufacturing truck that permits him to name the sport standing up. The manufacturing crew did two run-through periods in Los Angeles earlier than the preseason sport between the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans on Aug. 25.

Many lauded the preseason presentation, saying it appeared that Prime Video had been carrying video games for a few years as an alternative of it being its first.

“I feel the standard of the sport protection, and clearly the asserting, can be nearly as good as there may be within the NFL. That’s my purpose, that’s why I’m right here, and that’s what we intend to do,” Gaudelli mentioned.

Gaudelli has labored with Michaels since 2001 whereas Herbstreit emerged because the analyst after Troy Aikman determined to go to ESPN. Hartung, beforehand an ESPN sideline reporter, returns to sports activities after 5 years with ABC Information and CNN.

The realm the place Prime might stand out is its pregame present. Amazon has established veterans in Charissa Thompson and Tony Gonzalez, nevertheless it additionally employed Richard Sherman, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Andrew Whitworth. Having three tv rookies coming straight off the soccer subject might make issues entertaining.

Whereas the NFL and Prime Video wish to draw large viewer numbers instantly, each events understand the transition will take a while, although there was in depth promotion about the place to search out the video games. Whereas everybody focuses on the primary sport, the larger image is down the highway.

“That is the beginning of an 11-year deal. After all, we wish the most important viewers attainable, however this can be a large change for followers,” Donoghue mentioned. “We’re very comfy with that. We’re overly targeted on our manufacturing and what we ship for followers. We’ve obtained an extremely excessive bar that we set for ourselves. So we all know it will evolve over time.”

Observe Joe Reedy on Twitter at

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