Next football season will mark Amazon's first full-time endeavor into the most profitable sport in America. The giant corporation will own the full rights to Thursday Night Football and will spend the next eight months trying to make the flashiest hires possible; news has already leaked that their No. 1 target for the broadcast booth is Al Michaels, whose NBC contract expires after this year's Super Bowl.
Andrew Marchand of the New York Post has been all over this beat and brought fresh news to the forefront today, reporting that Amazon wants to establish a variety of studio shows to compete with the wall-to-wall coverage of FOX Sports, ESPN, and NFL Network. They've reportedly already begun to target personalities for these shows. Per Marchand:
In its continued quest to become a major player in sports media, Amazon is in the beginning stages of developing studio programs in hopes of potentially having a full daily lineup, The Post has learned.
Amazon Prime Video, according to sources, has held substantive discussions with Embassy Row, the Sony television and digital production company that has created hits such as the NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” and NBC Sports’ “Men in Blazers.”
There is no formal signed agreement between Amazon and Embassy Row, though, all indications are the arrangement will be green-lit, as the companies are already recruiting personalities for shows, according to sources. Amazon also is talking with other potential partners, though those are not known yet.
This naturally begs the question: who are the personalities they could be targeting? Given Amazon's aspirations and bottomless bank account, essentially nobody is off the table. The one qualifying factor is, as Marchand mentions, that the production company in question tends to lean towards light-hearted and engaging content rather than pure debate-style shows. Let's take some guesses at who the targets might be.
Brandt has a great gig right now with GMFB and it may be an issue if Amazon uses Embassy Row to hire away a personality from another Embassy Row show. But Brandt still stands out as the type of guy Amazon would give a blank check to and let him create whatever he wants-- something that would probably be goofy, informative, and exceptionally entertaining. Brandt's over-the-top energy and deep well of creativity makes him a great fit to start a studio show from scratch. If it comes down to GMFB or Amazon, he probably stays where he is. But if there's a universe where he could do both, the partnership makes perfect sense.
Amazon will likely prioritize versatility for all their hires, and bringing in a studio host who can also do sideline reporting would fit that bill. Enter Taft. She hosts Undisputed on weekdays and goes on the road to report from the field on college football Saturdays. Taft seems to love the NCAAF sphere, but the NFL would likely be a promotion from a financial standpoint. If she's looking to move up, Amazon could bring her aboard to join the broadcast booth while having her host weekday studio shows, either in the debate format of Undisputed or something else. She has the skill to do either. Taft also hasn't seemed... enthralled with her studio cohorts at FOX recently. Should the FOX personality look for a change of scenery, Amazon is a natural landing spot. She would only be a piece of the puzzle for the studio show objective, but a very important piece.
Hawkins checks a few boxes for Amazon. He's a fun presence with a comedic edge, as one can glean from a glimpse at his Twitter profile. He has some brand recognition as a former NFL player. And he's a growing personality who doesn't yet have a major role at NFL Network. He could shine if given the main stage. No one knows if Hawkins could host his own show yet, given he's never had the opportunity, but he fits the bill in terms of the energy Amazon seems to want to bring to their daytime programming. Hawkins represents that second tier of sports personality that Amazon will target, analysts who are not yet finished products with great notoriety but could provide excellent value if given the proper stage.
Jones would be a huge swing for Amazon, but the opportunity is there. His contract with ESPN will expire in August. His desire to create content from the ground-up may not be there right now, given his new show with HBO that will begin in 2022. But Amazon's blank slate represents an opportunity for Jones to make whatever he wants, and a creative mind like his rarely turns down that type of chance. Jones joining Amazon is not a likely scenario by any means at this point, but a lot can change between now and next football season. It's a possibility worth keeping an eye on.