You can be forgiven for not knowing that Amazon Prime shows live sport in the U.K., but that’s all about to change.
For the past year, live tennis matches have sat alongside the latest episodes of big-budget dramas, classic tv series and blockbuster movies on the service’s home screen.
But aside from a marketing flurry around the US Open last year, the venture has so far been low key. The deal with the ATP Tour has allowed Amazon to optimize its distribution methods and to see how viewers interact with live content that has a relatively short shelf-life.
Amazon’s deals with the US Open and the ATP Tour last until 2022 and 2023 and the past few weeks have seen the company ramp up its efforts considerably.
Amazon Prime Sports
Firstly, it is doubling down on tennis. It has won the exclusive U.K. rights to the WTA Tour from 2020 through to 2024, allowing it to broadcast up to 2,000 matches from 49 leading women’s events. This makes Amazon the home of tennis in the U.K. and significantly expands its content offering.
“As soon as the opportunity to bid for the women’s tennis rights became available, we couldn’t wait to bring the tournament to Prime Video, giving customers the chance to watch the best in both women’s and men’s tennis all in one place for the first time,” said Alex Green, European MD of Sport at Amazon Prime Video. “We are excited to be the home of tennis and will offer viewers the most comprehensive coverage, at no extra cost to their Prime membership.”
“It’s opportunistic,” Paolo Pescatore, an analyst with PPForesight says of the acquisition of the rights. It’s a logical move which nicely complements its ATP coverage. Amazon’s rights strategy is perfect to test the waters and understand consumers habits. This will give it the confidence to potentially do more and cross-sell a range of services.”
Secondly, the Premier League has confirmed which live soccer matches Amazon will show next season. From 2019 until 2022, Amazon will have rights to 10 games in early December and 10 games over Boxing Day – the most important round of matches in the English calendar.
Many matches will be shown simultaneously – a Premier League first – while Amazon is reportedly trying to make it possible to watch four matches in a row on December 26 – also a first.
For Amazon, the Premier League deal not only gives it credibility, but the December timing of the fixtures means it may attract more customers to Amazon Prime during the Christmas shopping season – boosting its overall business.
The fact that one of the games it will show is the Merseyside Derby between Liverpool and Everton will also strengthen Amazon Prime’s appeal to soccer fans.
Future of Amazon
The announcement of the fixtures has been well-publicized in the press and has been accompanied by a marketing offensive on social media. Amazon has launched an official Amazon Prime Sports Twitter account and also paid for promoted Tweets from influencers to increase awareness.
It is still unclear what Amazon’s long-term strategy is for the U.K. and how far it is willing to disrupt the market. Pescatore notes that Amazon has shown a willingness to work with other broadcasters, such as BT, and offers third-party services – such as the ITV Hub and Eurosport Player – on Amazon Prime Channels. But he believes producing live Premier League soccer will present new challenges.
“Amazon must now be considered as a serious player in the U.K.,” he explains. “[But] Premier League fans are now accustomed to top quality professional produced football; it is about creating a story around the match.
“There are also still questions around whether games will be shown in 4K, HDR, Dolby Atmos as well as other interactive options in order to follow games simultaneously. Amazon must also maximize the value of its sports, so it needs to have a solution for pubs.”
However, he is adamant that Amazon has big plans in the works.
“Sport is one of the few genres that drives users to tune in and drives engagement,” he says. “This is great for its Prime service which is all about driving value and usage. There doesn’t seem to be any plans to increase prices. However, I’ve long argued that we will see some form of a Prime Sports bundle as it has done with Amazon Channels on top of Prime.”