Al Michaels Reflects on NFL’s “Dreadful” Thursday Night Games as Ratings Fall

In its first season exclusively on Amazon’s Prime Video, "Thursday Night Football " averaged 9.6 million viewers

Al Michaels on the field during an NFL game.
Al Michaels anchored Amazon's NFL coverage this season.
Tom Hauck/Getty

Always a somewhat questionable viewing product thanks to the short turnaround NFL coaches and players are required to make in order to play just four days after Sunday, Thursday Night Football moved to its new exclusive home on Amazon’s Prime Video this season after splitting time between Fox, the NFL Network and Amazon last year.

To give the new broadcast some authenticity and add appeal for football fans who may not have been too enthusiastic about streaming games, Amazon brought in legendary sportscaster Al Michaels to lead TNF and paired him with longtime ESPN college analyst Kirk Herbstreit. Somewhat of an odd couple, Michaels and Herbstreit did what they could this season during a slate of games that ranged from mildly entertaining to borderline unwatchable.

In a new interview with The Athletic, Michaels acknowledged that he called some “dreadful” football this season and specifically referenced a brutal Colts-Broncos game in Week 5 that ended 12-9 in overtime in Indy’s favor without a touchdown being scored.

“I think I’m to the point in my life and career, having watched sports since I was 6 years old, I feel what the crowd feels,” Michaels said. “The Denver-Indianapolis game was a dreadful game. No other way to describe it. No touchdowns. In fact, at one point during the game, I said to (analyst) Kirk (Herbstreit), ‘Is it possible this game could be so bad that it’s actually good?’ He’d never heard that from a partner and went, ‘No!’”

Whether due to the quality of the Thursday games, which also included a 12-7 Commanders win over the Bears and a 19-3 Jaguars win over the Jets, or some fans being unwilling or unable to stream games on Prime Video, the rating for TNF fell approximately 40% as average viewership dropped from 16.4 million viewers to 9.6 million, according to Bloomberg.

Having promised advertisers an average audience of 12 million people and fallen short, Amazon may offer bonus ad time or equivalent marketing opportunities for failing to meet the number. “We worked closely with our advertising partners throughout the season to deliver on our commitments and we look forward to creating even more opportunities and innovations next season,” Amazon said in a statement to Bloomberg.

Instead of more opportunities and innovations, we’re looking forward to some better games. Hopefully, we’ll get some starting tomorrow when the NFL’s Super Wild Card Weekend kicks off with Seahawks-49ers in San Francisco.

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