Last year, Amazon paid the NFL a whopping $100 million in exchange for the right to exclusively broadcast a regular-season game on Black Friday. They did so presumably because they felt there was an opportunity to steal the attention of a national audience still hungry for football on the "off" day between the NFL Thanksgiving slate and the rivalry games on college football Saturday. Never mind that Friday still boasted plenty of college games and many high school games around the country.
You can see the logic in the bet, and the floor was pretty high considering many millions of people will watch the worst NFL game in existence as long as it's on television. They'll undoubtedly complain, but they will watch. Amazon's ability to loop in their own Black Friday offers to the broadcast surely played into the calculus. And the game they got looked really good before the year! The Aaron Rodgers-led New York Jets taking on the Miami Dolphins in what might've been a battle for AFC East supremacy and playoff positioning.
Obviously the quality of the game fell through the basement after Rodgers got hurt and the Jets refused to do anything except trot out Zach Wilson followed by Tim Boyle to fix things. And with it went any opportunity for big ratings. The numbers came out today and they are... bad. By NFL standards, anyway.
The Dolphins' 31-13 beatdown of the Jets garnered only 9.61 million viewers. It was the second-lowest Amazon Prime audience of the season, beat out only by the Chicago Bears-Carolina Panthers atrocity that drew 9.56 million sets of eyeballs the week before Thanksgiving. It also marks only the third time this season a Prime game dipped below 10 million viewers.
If it were all else equal it wouldn't matter too much that one of Amazon's games flopped. You could see it coming from a mile away. But they paid quite a bit of money for this particular game to be broadcast on this particular day and the low number muddles how successful Black Friday broadcasts will be going in the future. Was the number low because some guy named Tim Boyle, who threw more interceptions than touchdowns at noted football factory UConn, quarterbacked the home side? Or was the number low because people don't habitually watch football on Black Friday like they do on Thanksgiving? Do the bigger college games that day steal too many viewers for a Black Friday NFL game to pop?
None of those questions have clear answers, and that's why the ratings are bad news. Amazon hoped the Black Friday game would be an instant success, of course, but even if the numbers were a bit lower than their season average they could draw conclusions. Instead, though, the biggest question marks around the whole crusade remain.