Jun 12th 2018

Amazonian Sport: Internet giant steps into the arena of football streaming

Amazon has finally taken the long-anticipated step into the world of live football streaming in the UK and bought the rights to show 20 Premier League matches from 2019 for three years. This is a move that will no doubt worry Sky and BT a great deal. Now Amazon has a foothold in the sports broadcast market, its presence is likely grow.

What was the deal?

Amazon won the final Premier League package which consists of a round of ten midweek games in December followed by a further 10 games on Boxing Day. Four of the other packages were won by Sky, whilst the other two were won by BT. The deal will likely be worth approximately £90 million, which will have been a discounted rate.

What does it mean for football?

For the Premier League and football in the UK, Amazon’s move has created a tricky situation. It is financially beneficial to the league, even at the discounted rate, although some are worried it might be detrimental to the fan experience.

The Board will have been very happy that anyone took the final unsold package off their hands as it has been up in the air since February. Many fans feel put out by this deal – if you want to watch every game at home, you will need to spend more than ever and pay for Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon Prime.

The yearly total for all three sports packages will cost a staggering £1061.76 – to give you a sense of perspective, the cheapest average season ticket is at Huddersfield Town and costs around £100. At the other end of the spectrum is a season ticket at Arsenal – the cheapest of which costs £891, almost £200 cheaper than the combined cost of Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon Prime.

One worry for fans is what this will do to the live experience at stadiums. As the quality of live sports broadcast increases, will people continue to spend time, effort and money to travel to grounds to watch matches?

Today, armchair football fans can enjoy 4K Ultra HD, instant analysis and more camera angles than ever before. From the club crests on player shirts to the native 4K animations, you can pick out all manner of detail in the Premier League coverage. You can enjoy a fantastic amount of analyis and punditry with ex-professional players. Then there’s the use of AR: data-driven graphics displayed in monitors or incorporated into the studio as part of a virtual set are great ways to make TV punditry more engaging.

What does it mean for TV in the UK?

Whenever Amazon stakes its claim to something, you know it will be thinking of the long game. This move will be something of an experiment – this package was designed with the internet giants in mind but only Amazon was willing to nail its colours to the mast. It would appear that Netflix, Apple, Facebook and Google were uninterested in this opportunity at this time.

The trend of the population moving towards streaming sites as the main way of consuming video content has been well publicised over the last few years – 11% more shows were streamed in 2017 on iPlayer than they were the previous year, for example. Live sport has until now be the last outpost for traditional broadcasters. However, with Amazon moving into this market – and perhaps other OTT providers in the future – could this mark the beginning of the end for the likes of Sky?

Virtually at the game

As it stands, virtual reality (VR) is looking to be the bankable future of entertainment technology. The cost of developing this type of technology requires a huge budget – Amazon are one of the few companies which would not only be able to advance VR tech, but also have the business model in place to roll it out on a large scale.

At some point, we will reach a point where we will be able to put on a VR headset and enjoy the football even when we are not at home, through a 5G connection. A high-quality service will mean more camera angles, more football for your money and theoretically a more life-like experience than ever before. This could mean that the experience feels more immersive than if you were actually at the game – more features, a better view and it may well reach a point when fans can actually sense the noise and atmosphere. Clubs across Britain will be eager to make sure attendance and atmosphere are something that can be maintained despite the unrelenting progress of technology in the hands of the likes of Amazon.

The rise of internet streaming platforms has been troublesome for traditional broadcasters for years, but now we are entering an era when the likes of Sky and BT are going to have to fight fiercely to not lose market share to the tech giants. Stay tuned.