The NFL Week 16 schedule includes a rare Saturday triple-header, however, that won't be the only rare thing about the slate of games scheduled for Dec. 26. For just the second time ever, the NFL has given exclusive rights to a game to an internet company.
If you have NFL Network, you were able to watch the 1 p.m. early game (Buccaneers at Lions) and will be able to watch the 8:15 p.m. ET late game (Dolphins at Raiders) on Saturday, but you won't be able to watch the middle game between 49ers and the Cardinals, which is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET.
The only way to watch that game is by streaming it through Amazon Prime or Twitch. The NFL giving exclusive rights to a regular season game to a non-television network is a highly rare thing that almost never happens. The only other time the league has allowed a streaming company to air a game came in 2017 when Yahoo was given rights to a Ravens-Jaguars game that was played in London.
This time around, Amazon was given a standalone game as part of a new streaming deal the internet giant signed with the NFL back in April. Not only did the deal give Amazon the rights to stream Thursday games through 2022, but the deal also included one game for Amazon that wouldn't be available to any national TV network and that game is the one being played on Saturday afternoon in Arizona.
Of course, the NFL won't be completely ditching televisions for that game. Under league broadcasting rules, all games must be available on over-the-air TV in the markets of the two teams that are playing, which means the only way you can watch the 49ers-Cardinals game on television is if you live in Phoenix (where it will air on Fox-10) or if you live in San Francisco (where it will air on NBC Bay Area). Everyone else will have to watch on Amazon Prime or Twitch.
The game is actually being produced by CBS, which means you'll see some familiar faces like Andrew Catalon (play-by-play), James Lofton (analyst) and Sherree Burruss (sideline) if you watch the Amazon stream.
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If you're wondering why the NFL would give Amazon a standalone game, there are multiple reasons. For one, Amazon paid a lot of money for it, but more importantly, it allows the league to find out what the national appetite is for games that are only available through streaming. The NFL's current television deal with each network is set to expire after the 2022 season (ESPN's expires following the 2021 season), which means the league is currently deep in negotiations to extend those. One of the options for the NFL could be to sell some sort of streaming package and if that happens, don't be surprised if it involves Sunday Ticket, which is currently on DirecTV.
According to the Sports Business Journal, Amazon Prime Video, ESPN+, NBCUniversal's Peacock and DAZN are all potentially interested in landing the rights to Sunday Ticket, which would allow them to air out-of-market games to anyone who subscribes. According to the New York Post, Amazon could also end up trying to acquire exclusive rights to "Thursday Night Football," so a lot could be changing on the streaming front as the bids to land NFL games are hashed out over the next few months.
Anyway, if you've already forgotten how to watch each Saturday game in Week 16, here's a quick reminder:
- Buccaneers at Lions: 1 p.m. ET (NFL Network)
- 49ers at Cardinals: 4:30 p.m. ET (Amazon Prime Video and Twitch)
- Dolphins at Raiders: 8:15 p.m. ET (NFL Network)
The Buccaneers will clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Lions while the Raiders will be officially eliminated if they lose to the Dolphins.