2019 is set to be a ground-breaking year for sports broadcasting. Amazon Prime, the streaming division of the US commerce giant, have recently confirmed themselves as serious players by becoming the first online streaming service to secure a UK football broadcast deal. In the wake of producing acclaimed sports documentaries starring the likes of Manchester City, the All Blacks and the Arizona Cardinals, the June 2018 deal between the Premier League and the world’s second most valuable company indicates a potential end to the monopoly that Sky and BT Sport have established.
While the fee Amazon paid for their three-year, 20 games-a-season deal has not been disclosed, this initial move from a streaming service to enter UK sports broadcasting is one to be excited about. In the eleven years that have passed since Netflix released its on-demand streaming service the way in which consumers view and engage with content has been revolutionised. Both Amazon and Netflix now stand at the forefront of this industry and adding live sport to their repertoire was simply a matter of time.
Whether the move will have the same success as producing their own original content only time will tell. Whilst Netflix’s own foray into producing their own content was labelled as “the biggest gamble in its 14-year history,” back in 2011, it has since proved revolutionary. Now with the ability to spend in excess of £100 million on Netflix Originals such as The Crown, serious competitors to the established order in broadcasting have finally emerged.
What does this mean for the fans?
While competition amongst different platforms would typically suggest a price decline in order to establish a greater audience share, as witnessed in the past decade and beyond, this has not been always been the case. The ongoing battle between BT Sport and Sky for Premier League broadcast rights in the UK led to a 70% price inflation 2010 and 2013, culminating in a staggering £5.13 billion for the rights between 2013-18.
Despite the latest auction prices for the 2019-2022 broadcast packages falling to £4.46 billion (with the PL reportedly accepting “lowball bids” to encourage new competition), Sky still announced an increase to their sports subscription price in September. It is, however, not all bad news. Early 2019 will see the introduction of a landmark deal between BT Sport and Sky in which the two platforms have agreed to share each other’s respective sports offerings. Marc Allera, Chief Executive of BT Consumer, hinted that the presence of streaming services was a factor in this decision:
“You look at the Facebooks, the Amazons, the Netflixs, the Googles, the Apples, they are putting bigger budgets into content. How you position yourself is very important.”