The viewership numbers for Amazon’s first regular-season “Thursday Night Football” game were finally released by Nielsen on Thursday (nicely timed as a lead-in to Thursday’s Steelers-Browns game). Nielsen said Amazon averaged 13.0 million viewers for the Chiefs-Chargers game. Per Sports Media Watch, that includes 602,000 viewers on Los Angeles Fox affiliate KTTV and 555,000 viewers on Kansas City NBC affiliate KSHB-TV. That would put Amazon at 11.8 million viewers on its own for the main broadcast. The game peaked at 14.6 million viewers between 10:45 and 10:59 p.m. ET.

Based on Amazon’s first-party measurement, across all platforms, Amazon said it averaged 15.3 million viewers in total. The company said its audience was seven years younger than the linear NFL audience through Week 2 of the 2022 season (46 years vs. 53 years). These are objectively good numbers for opening week — Amazon promised advertisers an average of 12.5 million viewers for the season — and we’ll get into that below. The NFL is going to spin this as proof that there is a mass audience for streaming and like everything else in life, we would stress patience and context. But they have a very good Week 1 story.

We sometimes get questions in this space about why sports fans should care about the viewership of a sport. It’s a very fair question. But “should” isn’t the right word here. You care about what you care about it. The more interesting question is, how does NFL viewership impact me as a viewer?

At a base level, you need some kind of marker to measure the popularity of a sport, and viewership has long been a decent (though flawed) metric to measure where the NFL sits with the American public. The NFL’s high viewership is why the league can charge billions for its product. (NFL media rightsholders set prices for advertising based on viewership promises to ad clients.) It is why Amazon paid more than $1 billion annually for 11 years for the “Thursday Night Football” product.

As Amazon executive producer Fred Gaudelli told The Athletic recently: “I was at ESPN when we had our first NFL game. You know what the NFL did for ESPN. It put it on a rocket to the moon that is still in orbit. Amazon is a huge company, a hugely successful company. But the NFL can take you places that most other entities can’t.”

Here’s some context on what we think the numbers mean.