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Thursday Night Football Could Boost Amazon's Burgeoning Advertising Business

By Adam Levy - Jul 5, 2017 at 12:31PM

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Amazon is packaging its commercial time with its other ad products.

Earlier this year, Amazon (AMZN -0.85%) bought the rights to simulcast 10 Thursday Night Football games that will also air on CBS (PARA -0.17%) and NBC in the United States. Amazon paid $50 million to take the broadcasts from the networks and stream them to its Prime members all over the world. Twitter (TWTR -0.34%) made a similar deal last year for $10 million.

But unlike CBS and NBC, Amazon only gets a handful of ads per game (about 10). These are the ad spots cable companies and affiliate stations sell to local advertisers. Amazon will reportedly charge advertisers $2.8 million for a set package of ads, which includes advertisements on its retail marketplace as well as ads during the broadcast. That's on the low end of the $2 million to $8 million Twitter charged for packages last year. But it's well above the $550,000 and $590,000 NBC and CBS are asking per 30-second commercial.

How much Amazon expects to raise from these packages is unclear, and reports don't specify how many ads marketers get for $2.8 million. Nonetheless, by tying the Thursday Night Football ads to its marketplace ads, it stands to attract some big-budget marketers to its burgeoning ad business.

Football on field with players walking around in the background.

Image source: Getty Images.

Ad sales are already accelerating

Amazon doesn't break out its advertising business, as it's still relatively small compared to its retail and cloud computing efforts. Instead, it lumps ad revenue in with its co-branded credit card and other miscellaneous revenue into the "other" category.

Last quarter, Amazon generated $850 million in other revenue, up 58% year over year. That's an acceleration from the 46% growth exhibited in the first quarter last year. In the fourth quarter -- typically the strongest period for advertising -- Amazon generated $1.07 billion, nearly double its previous fourth quarter.

Amazon ads appear as a banner above product search results, sponsored product listings that jump to the top of results, as well as right-hand column ads alongside product listings. Amazon also includes sponsored product listings related to some items in the item description page.

So far, they're largely limited to small brands looking to increase their visibility. But big brands with big budgets can really drive ad sales for Amazon. By packaging its search ads with the Thursday Night Football ads, Amazon is going after that market to inject some extra money into its regular advertising business.

A whole new market

What makes Amazon's Thursday Night Football rights particularly valuable is that it opens a whole new market for big brands to work with Amazon. Unlike Twitter, Amazon doesn't work with many big brands in its advertising business. Twitter already had established relationships with big brands, as it generates the majority of its revenue from their ad budgets.

Amazon has some relationships with brands as a distributor for their products, but many big brands prefer to keep their products off of to exercise better control over their brand and understand their customers better. (Amazon doesn't share much data with vendors.) Of course, as Amazon takes a larger share of the overall retail market, many brands are finding it too much of a sacrifice to forego sales on Adding new advertising products to the mix can help sweeten the deal for brands still on the fence.

Overall, Thursday Night Football could be a nice catalyst to drive more big brands to Amazon's ad products and online marketplace, benefiting Amazon through both increased ad prices (due to higher competition) and improved product selection -- not to mention the potential for Thursday Night Football to draw in more Prime subscribers.

Adam Levy owns shares of Amazon. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon and Twitter. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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