Amazon Wins U.K. Broadcast Rights to Premier League


The known price of the broadcast rights in Britain, at least £4.46 billion, dwarfs the 1992 figure. Still, it is less than the 2015 auction, when Sky and BT paid a total of £5.14 billion for the three seasons through 2018.

The Premier League deal is the latest example of Amazon’s wide-ranging ambitions. It took over the rights in April 2017 to stream Thursday night N.F.L. games from Twitter, and expanded its tennis content in November. The Seattle-based company has also sought to develop new scripted entertainment, making headway with shows like “Transparent,” though it still lags behind competitors like Netflix in this regard.

It is not alone in its push into live sports: Facebook made a major bid last year to broadcast cricket matches from the Indian Premier League and is streaming Major League Baseball games, while Twitter has streamed baseball and professional hockey games.

The transformation of the broadcast landscape mirrors one a quarter-century ago. Sky was only three years old in 1992 when it bid more than £300 million for the rights to televise live top-flight soccer matches in Britain. At the time, the move stunned the world of soccer and gave Sky an identity. The huge influx of cash — several times what had previously been paid for equivalent rights — helped Premier League clubs lure top players from all over the world.

Digital media companies have long proclaimed an interest in sports rights, but they have largely failed to enter competitive bids for marquee properties. And while sports leagues are eager to increase the number of bidders, they have shown a reluctance to turn over rights wholesale to digital partners, preferring instead to craft deals that include digital streaming on top of traditional TV broadcasting.

But the format of the Premier League’s auction makes it easier for digital media companies to compete. While most large rights packages in the United States are for seven seasons or more, the Premier League offers only three-season blocks, lowering the get-in cost. The 200 Premier League games on offer were also split into seven packages of 32 or 20 games each, making it easier for Amazon to dip a toe in the water, albeit in a smaller market than the United States.

The revenue for the Premier League rights in Britain is supplemented by income from broadcast deals elsewhere, including in the United States, where NBC televises the matches, and in China, where the digital broadcaster PPTV holds the rights.


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