Black Friday Football Delivers Respectable Viewership, Impressive Ad Engagement

The first Black Friday Football game, on Amazon Prime Video, apparently fell short of some advertisers’ viewership expectations, but the game’s ad engagement performance was a big win.

The game drew an average 9.61 million viewers according to Nielsen (peaking at 11.18 million between 5 and 5:15 pm), and 10.83 million according to Amazon, based on custom live streaming reports compiled for the company by Nielsen.

It was the most-watched game of the day and the highest-rated TV show among young viewers 18 to 34 and adults 18 to 49. The day’s next-most-watched game was the mid-day Big Ten faceoff between Iowa and Nebraska, with an average of 4.39 million.

But the game underperformed Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football,” which had averaged 12.27 million season-to-date. The Black Friday game turned out to be Amazon’s second least-viewed game of the season to date, behind the 9.56 million who watched the Nov. 9 Chicago Bears/Carolina Panthers match.



Given the amount of promotion Amazon poured into driving awareness of the Black Friday game and its free access to anyone who had an Amazon account, rather than the usual requirement of being a Prime Video member, some had predicted at least 12.5 million viewership, noted AP. And at least one report had some advertisers expecting more than double the nearly 10 million actually delivered.

But as seemed likely, given group viewing dynamics, Thanksgiving Day football games pulled considerably higher viewership. NBC’s broadcast of the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks game averaged 26.9 million viewers across its platforms, according to Nielsen data, making it the second most-watched T-Day primetime game ever.

However, measurement platform BDO reported that consumers were 73% more likely than the retail primetime average to engage with retail ads aired during this year’s Thanksgiving Day programming and Black Friday NFL games, and 45% more likely to engage than the overall average for NFL ads to date this season.

Moreover, viewers who watched Black Friday’s game on Prime Video were 78% more likely to search for brands advertised than those who watched games on T-Day, according to EDO.

The game also generated Prime’s highest during-games engagement so far this year, according to Amazon Ads.

Interviewed on “Squawk Box” on Nov. 27, EDO President and CEO Kevin Krim said consumers responded “very aggressively” to the ads in the Black Friday game, and ad performance was “quite strong."

"There were a lot of QR codes," and more retail ads than is usual for Amazon games, he said. Retailers included Dick’s Sporting Goods, Old Navy and Kohl’s. There were also more automotive and financial services brands, including Kia, Hyundai, Acura and BMW, Visa, Discover, Capital One and American Express.

About half of all ads in the game had QR codes, including ads from Dick’s, Meta, Gillette and BMW that ranked among the top 10 highest in ad performance in EDO's stats. 

Amazon pushed innovation, staging quarterly product drops, including one in which a 30% off discount for a Lego Harry Potter castle was hyped by making it contingent on Prime Video’s Ryan Fitzpatrick making four accurate football tosses in 30 seconds (he succeeded). Before the end of each quarter, a distinctly formatted house ad promoted that quarter’s discounted product drop and the in-game shopping opportunities.

“There were those kinds of things that really marked a different kind of broadcast,” said Krim, although much of the unusual  promotional action was kept to the pregame programming. The ad time was “expensive, but worth it” because of the “synergistic relationship between the NFL and Amazon” in which Amazon is “showing the NFL new things and the NFL is willing to try new things with new partners,” he added.

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