This week, Amazon streamed its first NFL game on its platform, officially launching Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime Video. From a broadcast perspective, it wasn't anything special or spectacular. However, there is one aspect of the stream that stands out in a crowded streaming market: it worked. And that is good news, and a big accomplishment, for the streaming industry.
Congrats to Amazon
While it may not seem like a giant feat, it really is. Amazon managed to stream an entire NFL football game without the entire infrastructure of Amazon Prime Video collapsing. This is because we've legitimately never seen anything of this scale not fall apart before our eyes. CBS All Access (now Paramount+) collapsed under the weight of the Super Bowl in 2021. HBO Max failed completely during the premiere of House of The Dragons premiere. Even The Daily Wire failed during the premiere of the documentary What is a Woman?, though that one seemed to be caused by a DDoS attack.
Amazon might have faced some buffering issues, and the occasional pixelation, but the stream never actually failed. That is a huge accomplishment for the streaming market, which has regularly failed during major events. Most importantly, it shows that it is possible to hold a large online stream without completely losing control over the technology.
As streaming becomes a bigger part of our lives, more events, such as NFT Thursday Night Football, are going to move from over-the-air broadcast or even cable to these streaming platforms. Being able to deploy the infrastructure needed to make these events work is the only way that customers are going to trust the platforms enough to want to watch, and for the content producers to trust them enough to sign a contract.
Why it worked this time
The likelihood of why it worked for Amazon while everyone else has seemingly failed is because they control the entire backend system for their streaming platform. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a primary product of the company, meaning they had the ability to scale up the infrastructure as needed on demand without any external forces.
However, whether you're Netflix or The Daily Wire and rely on AWS for your infrastructure, you're a whole level of abstraction away from the physical hardware. This means that it will likely require manual intervention to scale up in the middle of a broadcast, and will have a slight delay before it takes effect. Therefore, you're more likely to drop streamers or collapse entirely before the cloud system catches up.
Does this mean that competitors should build their own cloud infrastructure? Not necessarily. But, they will need to be more thoughtful about the way in which they use the cloud and how and when they are able to scale up and down their operations in response to immediate market needs. It won't be easy, but for the next generation of live streaming to be a success, it's going to need to happen.