“Alexa, play Thursday Night Football.”
The streaming era has arrived for the NFL and its fans.
It begins Thursday on Amazon’s Prime Video, as the streaming service airs its first exclusive “Thursday Night Football” broadcast with the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Los Angeles Chargers.
What viewers will see on their screens – or phones, it’s a new era after all – will not be foreign for anyone who watches football.
But there will be a large swath of fans who will quickly go from anticipation to frustration upon turning on their televisions. Here is a guide on how to watch and what to expect from “Thursday Night Football” this season.
The game will be streamed exclusively through Prime Video, via the app or web browser. All games will kick off at 8:15 p.m. ET.
Amazon Prime memberships are needed for this method. Anyone can sign up for a 30-day trial.
Prior to kickoff Thursday, Prime Video will run a one-minute “how to experience” Thursday Night Football to give people an idea of the options they have, executive producer Fred Gaudelli said.
Streaming is possible on a variety of devices: game consoles, smart TVs, media players, tablets, set top boxes and mobile phones, for example.
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There are other ways to watch if you don’t have a Prime membership. The games will be streamed on Twitch, an Amazon subsidiary.
Thursday Night Football will also be available in local markets. For this week, it’s KSHB41 (Kansas City) and KTTV 11 (Los Angeles). That is something the NFL mandated in its 11-year, $11 billion deal but only covers this season.
The voices you will hear the most are familiar ones.
Al Michaels, in his 37th season calling NFL games, will handle play-by-play. He’ll be joined by Kirk Herbstreit as the color commentator. Kaylee Hartung is the sideline reporter and Terry McAulay is the rules analyst.
Michaels has been on the national scene for nearly 50 years, from the 1980 United States men’s hockey “Miracle Call” to “Sunday Night Football.” NBC, where he had been since 2006, let his contract expire after last season.
“If we put on a high-quality show and we have every intention of doing that, then anybody else in the sports world will look at it and say, ‘Hey, we want to be a part of what they’re doing,'” Michaels said last month. “And that’s our goal.”
Herbstreit will be among the busiest people in football between his Prime Video and ESPN college football duties. He has dabbled in NFL broadcasts before by calling a handful of games with ESPN partner Chris Fowler.
Hartung has been in news for the past five years after a stint at ESPN/SEC Network. She worked at CNN and, most recently, ABC News.
“The craft is the same, whether you’re talking about news or sports, and it comes down to great storytelling,” Hartung said.
The broadcast trio is just one component of the talent Prime Video has acquired for the broadcasts.
The pregame, halftime and postgame studio team is:
“If I got my say in it,” said Thompson, who also hosts NFL studio shows for Fox, “this is definitely the group that I’d want to have.”
Sherman and Fitzpatrick spoke earlier this week about their budding “bromance” and Gonzalez is on his third studio gig after stints at CBS and Fox.
“It’s all about trust and the chemistry comes from really liking each other, people that you actually want to hang out with,” said Gonzalez, who is always primed with a dad joke. “And I think it couldn’t have gotten off to a better start with these guys.”
Ex-NFL offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth will be a contributor and Taylor Rooks will report features. Michael Smith will provide news analysis and reporting.
A brief postgame discussion will give way to a larger postgame show in the app.
Listening to Al and Kirk aren’t your only options.
TNF en Español will call the game for the Spanish-speaking audience: Miguel Gurwitz (play-by-play), Rolando Cantú (analyst) and Mayra Gomez (sideline reporter) are on that call.
There is also “TNF with Dude Perfect,” starring the trick-shot content creators, and “TNF with Storm & Kremer” which will feature Andrea Kremer and Hannah Storm for two games yet to be decided.
“Dude Perfect” gets the first crack at it during Chiefs-Chargers.
The Prime Video team expects to deliver, even for the most skeptical fan.
“We have incredibly high expectations,” said vice president for global sports video Marie Donoghue, “and we intend to meet them.
The DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket and RedZone streaming issues from this past weekend give Prime Video reason for nervousness. Whether it’s the chemistry between talent or broadband connectivity, there will be room to improve after Week 2.
“Everything gets better,” Donoghue said. “Week to week, everything gets better, but we’d be bored if that weren’t the case. But we’re coming out of the gate strong.
To pull of a NFL game, Donohue knew she had to grab her own Fred Gaudelli, she said. Prime Video wound up with the man himself. The goal is to have a “near perfect telecast every time you do it,” Gaudelli said.
Appealing to hardcore NFL fans and casual streamers who opened the app’s “live” tab is a multi-pronged goal for Prime Video.
The optionality a streaming service, backed by the powers of an e-commerce giant, adds a creative aspect to the endeavor.
“We’re creating a huge, big-tent experience,” Donoghue said. “Not everybody wants to watch the game the same way. So, we’re not choosing one type of fan to serve. We’re trying to serve all fans.”
Alexa can help viewers pull up the game or answer questions about stat leaders. For example: “Who has the most rushing yards?”
X-Ray is an exclusive feature that gives fans access to real-time stats. Next Gen Stats is another element available through X-Ray, along with replays.
Fans can also record games (with rewind/fast-forward capabilities) that will be stored in the cloud until the start of next season.
From a broadcast perspective, there will be two sky cams: Sky Cam and High Sky. There will be 13 high-speed, super-slow-motion cameras. The kick technology pioneered on Sunday Night Football will be involved.
“It’s going to be a very, very robust production,” Gaudelli said. “And hopefully everyone’s going to enjoy it.”
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.
“Alexa, play Thursday Night Football.”