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Prime Video misses the mark on Black Friday football, but it’s not a loss

The news: Amazon’s attempt to make a “mini-Super Bowl” out of the Black Friday NFL match between the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins fell short of expectations, per Ad Age, delivering approximately half its expected viewership.

  • According to Ad Age, some ad buyers expected approximately 20 million viewers. Instead, the game delivered an average of 9.61 million viewers (or 10.83 million, with Amazon data included), peaking at 11.8 million.

Causes: There were several factors driving the lower-than-expected viewership on Black Friday.

  • The matchup didn’t do Amazon any favors. The Jets’ star quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, has been out all season due to an injury in the first match of the year, hampering the game’s star power and viewership.
  • Airing on Black Friday was considered a boon, with families presumably still together after the Thanksgiving holiday. But the proximity to the much-more widely viewed Thanksgiving game may have caused viewer burnout, leading to lower viewership.
  • The match was also Amazon’s first attempt at creating a major event out of a Black Friday game, so relatively low adoption isn’t terribly surprising. The company encouraged brands to make unique creative for the game, Super Bowl-style, and had Dolly Parton perform at half-time, generating headlines and attracting pop culture attention.

Not a loss: Despite significantly underdelivering on viewership, Ad Age reported that major advertisers were not terribly upset with the results and are hopeful about future events—a vote of confidence in Prime Video’s unique advertising and direct-to-consumer capabilities.

  • This isn’t the first time Amazon has underdelivered on football viewership. Its first-year figures for Thursday Night Football landed below expectations, forcing it to compensate advertisers with other ad placements—something it may also do after Black Friday.
  • Amazon used the game to push a number of new ad formats, including one that allows a single advertiser to display different versions of the same ad to viewers depending on their demographics or targeting information. Those new formats are expected to bring in $100 million for the company this year.

Our take: As advertising shifts away from linear TV, typical metrics like traditional viewership are still crucial but don’t give the full picture. Advertiser reactions to low numbers show that the ability to reach consumers directly, more effectively target ads, and create opportunities for in-stream purchases is highly valued.