Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is ready for some football.
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The National Football League has reached a deal to stream 10 Thursday night games with Amazon.com Inc., the online retailer that is aggressively trying to position itself as a premier source of entertainment content.
The one-year agreement is valued at around $50 million, according to people familiar with the matter. That is price tag represents a fivefold increase over the NFL's agreement with Twitter Inc. for the same number of games last season.
While Twitter streamed the games on its free social network site, Amazon's games will be available only to its Amazon Prime members, who pay $99 a year for free, two-day shipping and access to music, movies and TV shows. Amazon has more than 60 million Prime members world-wide, according to analyst estimates.
The games will continue to be available on television as well. The Thursday night package is split between CBS and NBC. The NFL Network also carries Thursday night football.
Other bidders for the Thursday night streaming package included Google, Twitter and Facebook, according to a person familiar with the matter. A Twitter representative didn't return a request for comment, while spokesmen for Google and Facebook declined to comment.
For Amazon, the push into sports distinguishes its programming ambitions from Netflix Inc. and Hulu, the online streaming service co-owned by Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox, Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Inc. Both Netflix and Hulu have steered clear of sports and other live content.
"We're focused on bringing our customers what they want to watch, Prime members want the NFL," said Amazon Senior Vice President Jeff Blackburn. The large audience that the NFL attracts will also give Amazon a promotional platform for its other content, he added.
Amazon has also sought live game rights from various other right holders, from the NBA to soccer and surfing leagues. With some, it has even raised the idea of creating a premium sports package that would be offered as an add-on for Prime members, The Wall Street Journal reported in November.
Amazon's interest hasn't been limited to the U.S.: In India, it threw its hat in the ring last year to bid on rights for the popular Indian Premier League cricket games.
Amazon executives believe the e-commerce giant can uniquely target fans with sports gear, a way that the company could potentially justify forking over high fees for big-ticket sports. Mr. Blackburn declined to talk specifically about how Amazon might use the NFL to sell merchandise.
For the NFL, the Amazon deal continues its eagerness to experiment with new distribution platforms as viewing patterns continue to shift away from traditional media. Brian Rolapp, the NFL's executive vice president of media said Amazon's "deep and rich streaming experience really caught our eye."
The NFL already had a relationship with Amazon through the program "All or Nothing" a documentary series that follows one team through an entire season. Mr. Blackburn said it was one of Amazon's most popular shows.