The Media Notepad: Bears don’t deliver for Amazon Prime

Also: prime-time’s future debated; Pluto takes streaming lead 

You wonder if Amazon has a return policy for defective football games: Much like the teams on the field, the October 13 edition of Prime Video’s Thursday Night Football was completely forgettable.

The newly renamed Washington Commanders played the Chicago Bears on a 40-degree night and viewers figured the game between two awful teams wasn’t worth wasting their bandwidth. According to Nielsen, the game drew a season-low 8.79 million viewers and a 4.3 household rating, as reported by Sports Media Watch. Taking out the over-the-air broadcasts, the game drew 7.57 million eyeballs on Amazon Prime. The Commanders won the game 12-7. 

The game was down nearly a million viewers from a similarly-criticized Indianapolis Colts-Denver Broncos game streamed on Amazon from the previous week, also plagued with poor play.

Despite the Bears’ bad play, locally the game drew 833,000 viewers over Fox’s WFLD – roughly four times the audience than the previous week’s Illinois gubernatorial debate between incumbent Governor J.B. Pritzker and challenger Darren Bailey. Chicago viewers obviously prefer to watch the soon-to-be former NFL Lakefront Team underperform on the field than Bailey underperforming in a debate.

So far, Thursday Night Football on Prime Video is averaging 10.8 million viewers this season. Amazon paid $1 billion over eleven for exclusive rights. In the past week, Amazon and the NFL agreed to launch a Black Friday game, the first time the NFL has regularly scheduled a game on the day – one usually reserved for state high school playoff games in some parts of the country. But as you know, greed and mediocre pro football trumps all. 

Unfortunately for NFL fans, the Bears have another prime-time appearance against the New England Patriots over ESPN and WGN-TV on Monday Night Football October 24, atrocious commercials (political and non-political) included. The only best part of this game is the Manning brothers will be back calling the game for ESPN 2 Monday night, their first with the Bears. Grab your popcorn…

Seated at TVNewsCheck’s TV 2025 panel: Sinclair’s Chris Ripley; NBCUniversal’s Valari Staab; Hearst TV’s Jordan Wertlieb and Graham Media’s Catherine Badalamente (TVNewsCheck/Alyssa Wesley photo)

A lot of chatter took place since the word was out of NBC possibly handing the last hour of prime-time back to affiliates in a cost-cutting move. Now station groups want it to happen.

Speaking at TVNewscheck’s TV 2025: Monetizing The Future conference last Wednesday at the National Association of Broadcasters Show in New York, station groups would be looking to develop more innovative programming for the time period if it becomes available – aside from adding more local news. Hearst Television CEO Jordan Wertlieb said at the gathering he expects the two other broadcast networks to follow NBC’s lead if they give back the last hour of primetime to stations. 

But one of those networks however, threw cold water on the plan.

“We are committed to 10 p.m. [ET] and continuing our ratings success in that time period.”, said CBS president and CEO George Cheeks in a statement released later in the day.

The last major change to prime-time came in 1971, when the FCC forced the big three networks to give back the 7:30 p.m. ET half-hour time slot back to affiliates in order to develop such innovative programming – something stations balked at and loaded slots up with first-run syndicated fare for the most part. This comes as television is undergoing an upheaval thanks in part to the advent of streaming, which is upending the television ecosystem in the process.

No decision has been made as of yet, but one is anticipated sometime in the first quarter of next year.

If it does happen, the other networks will look at this and decide whether to follow suit (if NBC gives an hour to affils, the other two will follow suit – no matter what the CEO of CBS says, who may not even be CEO in a few years.) A recent report by a Wall Street investment firm stated linear television doesn’t have any kind of future, but they’ve said the same about other legacy media such as radio and physical print, though their power have been vastly reduced over the years as more and more companies in those fields have consolidated.

While Netflix is dominating the for-subscription field, one clear leader has emerged in the ad-supported category.

According to Nielsen, Paramount’s streamer Pluto TV is tops – actually showing up in their monthly market share tracker, “The Gauge”, with Nielsen declaring them the winner this week.

“Pluto TV is the first FAST service to cross the 1% share threshold and break out of the ‘other streaming’ category,” Nielsen said in a statement. Take a look at this pie chart:


While “other streaming” is leading at 10.7 percent and YouTube is second with 8 percent (combining the main YouTube site with YouTubeTV subscriptions), and is behind the pay-to-play streamers such as HBO Max, Disney, and Prime Video, Pluto TV made the list with 1 percent of viewing time – the best among “FAST” channels, or free ad-supported television streamers. Among active users, Pluto leads with 70 million users, ahead of Fox-owned Tubi, who has 51 million.

Of note, Pluto even did better than corporate sibling premium streamer, Paramount +. In all, streaming accounted for a record 36.9 percent of all TV usage in September -a significant chunk of the TV ecosystem, up 35 percent from August and up 35 percent from last year . Streaming also bested over-the-air broadcast (24.2 percent) and cable/satellite (33.8 percent). Obviously, the success of Fox News, ESPN, and Bravo are keeping the category relevant.

Keep in mind this only measure connected TVs, and does not include viewership on PCs, smartphones, and tablets.

Further reading/viewing:

Chicago gets the lion’s share of national attention when it comes to crime, but what about other areas? The national media doesn’t care about New Orleans as local broadcasters have a pulse of the violence on the tragic streets of the Crescent City. Tegna CBS affiliate WWL-TV tells the story in an hour-long news special, Wounded City. The entire program can be viewed at the link.  (WWL New Orleans)

Out of service for years, CBS 2 held a ceremony Monday for the return of their big videotron facing Daley Plaza with a giant lightswitch and a high school marching band. (Newscast Studio)

Former ABC 7 employees feud over something. (Axios) 

A month after Hurricane Ian slammed into Ft. Myers, country station Hell Yeah 93.7 returns to the airwaves. (Radio Insight) 


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