As a sports fan it often feels we would be better served by a monopoly than seeing sports rights holders splitting rights across multiple broadcasters. If Sky were the only bidders presumably a fair market rate would be agreed with the Premier League, a more reasonable subscription cost passed onto us consumers and we would only need to pay to subscribe to one service. The introduction of BT to the party drove up the price of the rights and consequently so did the cost of my Sky Sports subscription and the number of subscriptions I needed doubled if I wanted to continue to watch all available games.
We are told that competition is good for the consumer but it is hard to see those economics at work in this model, the fundamental flaw being that competition does not create choice for the consumer as each game is only available on one service, effectively creating a monopoly on a subset of the content for each broadcaster. As a result, my initial response to Amazon entering the market was negative as the only obvious change was having to go from two to three subscriptions to continue to access all of the content but when you start to consider some of the ways a streaming service could disrupt the marketplace there is a chance that this could be the first step towards a far better deal for fans and also potentially for clubs, leagues and sports that are not part of the economic anomaly that is the English Premier League.
Let’s start with noting that the Amazon deal is different from any deal we’ve seen before and it’s such a perfect fit for a streaming service that I have at least half an eyebrow raised wondering whether the idea was perhaps suggested in passing by the streaming service as the type of package that would prompt them to enter the market. The deal is basically a football binge watch. Twice a season, Amazon will stream 10 games in a day, no favouritism, no matches chosen for us, we can choose for ourselves. Obvious questions occur to me. Will they all be scheduled at the same time? Can I watch them all? Will restrictions on the number of devices we can watch on still apply on such days and prevent me from multi-screening all games at once? How many ex-pro pundits are they going to need?
What about Amazon, what will they learn from this toe in the water? More lightbulb moments. Will we stick to watching our teams? Will we gravitate to the ‘big’ clubs or big match-ups? Is this the first step towards outbidding the broadcasters for all rights? Will they look at making this work for other leagues or other sports? If all match days evolve like this and take us back to 3pm Saturday kick-offs (laws allowing) will consumers prefer to subscribe to a club now they can pick their games? And if subscribing to Prime Arsenal or Prime Chelsea makes more sense than Prime Video is that the slippery slope towards direct licensing deals with the clubs instead of the league?
Suddenly you start to see the potential upside for lower league clubs whose rights may be hoovered up and going unused in low value deals where an organisation of the scale and breadth of Amazon could deliver self-service broadcast technology options to stream away fixtures live back to fans in their home ground or even local pubs on a Saturday afternoon.
The path from concept to delivery for each of these ideas depends on a variety of legal and technical factors from rights management to broadcast operations and so in our upcoming articles we’ll explore those challenges and how they can be overcome to realise these opportunities that non-traditional broadcast companies could offer.
The sheer volume of questions and opportunities that this deal has prompted is enough for the initial trepidation to make way for excitement as it is already clear that at the very least for two days a year Amazon will offer a fresh experience and may even succeed in creating a couple of calendar events around which fans will rally and succeed where Super Sundays and Monday Night Footballs have so far fallen short of the popularity of their US equivalents.
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