“Historic.” “Groundbreaking.” “Forward-thinking.”
These were the words used to describe Amazon Prime’s new Thursday Night Football streaming option—an audio broadcast anchored by veteran journalists Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer, billed as the first time two women would call an entire NFL game together.
After the women’s debut last week, however, the only word on many fans’ minds was, “Huh?”
When viewers turned on their TVs, they were greeted not with Storm and Kremer, but with male Fox broadcasters Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. To get the women’s commentary, viewers had to access their language settings, select “audio,” and choose between English, English-UK, Espanol, and Storm-Kremer–a process one Twitter user compared to the ordeal of putting together Ikea furniture.
Even then, viewers couldn’t actually watch the celebrated female journalists, who were in a studio on the East Coast. Their audio just played over footage of the two male announcers.
Viewers who tuned in to support Storm or Kremer—or who simply wanted a break from the all-male booth—were not happy.
“[Amazon] really they put them in a horrible spot. It was really disappointing,” Steven Hughes of Beaverton, Oregon, told The Daily Beast. “It was promoted to be the first time women were going to call a football game, so I wanted to support it, but it was embarrassing.”
This disappointment stemmed, in part, from Amazon’s aggressive, girl-power marketing campaign for the program. Women make up nearly half of the NFL fan base, and Amazon pushed the gender angle hard in press releases, original videos and tweets, calling the women “true game changers.” In a statement announcing the new venture, Vice President of Prime Video Greg Hart said NFL fans would “hear history made this season.”
The journalists—who have more than 60 years of experience and numerous television awards between them—sat for interviews with outlets like the New York Times, which heralded them as making “history in the broadcast booth.” In one such interview, Kremer told Patriots.com that she heard from “anybody and everybody” after the announcement, including a father who told her she was “paving the way” for young women.
“That's really important to hear from somebody, to hear from a dad, and it's a responsibility that we have,” Kremer said. “We're not going to tell you. We're going to show you with our actions."
But when the broadcast aired, one viewer pointed out, Kremer—an Emmy winner and inductee in the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame—had to take to Twitter herself to tell viewers how to access the commentary.
“It’s like they’re trying to have their cake and eat it too,” radio producer and Patriots fan Brian Bell said of Amazon. “They want to get all this credit for putting these two great female broadcasters together for the first time but… they make you jump through every hoop in the world to try to get it.”
By the second week of the program, Amazon seemed to have picked up on the criticism, which was the subject of a story in the Indianapolis Star. The company tweeted out videos showing viewers how to change their language settings, and aired similar ads on the streaming service during commercial breaks. Some fans said they even saw a pop-up option to switch to the women’s audio during the broadcast.
But many viewers of this week's Thursday night game still struggled to find the audio options and continued to complain about the sound quality. When Bell tweeted that he couldn’t access the commentary through his Roku player, Amazon’s customer support responded that the “alternative audio” wasn’t available on his device. Another viewer told The Daily Beast he could still hear the Buck-Aikman audio coming through at points.
“Seems disingenuous to proactively advertise @HannahStormESPN & @Andrea_Kremer in the description and then make it challenging to actually tune into them. And on top of that, the audio quality is subpar,” tweeted one viewer.
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.
Representatives for Storm said she was not available to comment. Kremer pushed back on the fans’ criticism in a phone interview with The Daily Beast, calling it a “no-win situation.”
“If we are promoted as the top option of this or that, then people will be asking, ‘Why are they promoting these women?’” Kremer said. “If we’re not their top option, then people are asking, ‘Well why aren’t they?’”
“I would just view it from a positive way: that people want to listen to us, and hopefully it’s going to get easier each time to find us,” she added.