Amazon could still score late in Premier League

The Premier League is waiting for a late delivery from Amazon.

Amazon could still score late in Premier League

By David Hellier

The Premier League is waiting for a late delivery from Amazon.

Possible interest from Amazon offered the best chance at bigger proceeds for the auction of live UK rights through 2022 than the £5.1bn (€5.76bn) secured last time, with Sky and BT Group signalling restraint ahead of the auction after years of soaring inflation.

However, when the broadcasters took the five best packages for only about £4.5bn (€5bn) last week, it appeared Amazon was sitting on the sidelines.

The league still has a shot with two remaining packages, which it says have multiple bidders interested in matches that would normally be seen as supplementary to the top rights.

Tweaking those packages to add rights to replay other games soon after they’ve ended could woo the tech giant, said Mike Darcey, a former Sky chief operating officer.

“That would be quite a smart potential combination,” said Mr Darcey, who has been involved in Premier League bidding on five occasions.

Adding the so-called near-live replay rights to one or both packages of 20 games each would let Amazon give its Prime subscribers in the UK a bigger and more regular taste of England’s top soccer tournament.

It could add weekly commentary in order to claim it’s got a true UK soccer offering, as it builds out its Prime video service.

Sky currently holds the near-live rights — normally sold in a separate process — and could also be interested in bidding for them again.

Representatives for Amazon, Sky and the Premier League declined to comment.

The league might expect to attract about £360m (€406m) for a 20-game package, bundled with near-live rights, according to estimates from Ampere Analysis.

To cover that tab and break even in the UK, Amazon would need another one million Prime subscribers in the country, according to Ampere.

For Amazon, which has done deals for tennis and NFL football rights, the foray into sport is young.

Still, the company had planned to bid on Premier League rights, according to sources last month.

Leagues globally are embracing the entry of streaming services into sport as cable cord-cutting hits viewing figures in some places, threatening their biggest source of revenue.

While the Premier League has secured lower proceeds for the UK rights so far, it’s already set to match the total figure for domestic and global rights of roughly £8.4bn last time, due to increased revenues from overseas deals, according to sources.

Anything the league gets from the last two UK packages would push the proceeds above last round, the sources said.

As it stands, neither remaining Premier League package individually — nor both packages together — are sufficient for a new entrant to build a sport proposition around.

Taken together, they would only provide eight live viewing opportunities in just four separate weeks throughout a 30-week season, because some matches are played simultaneously.

Another alternative for the league with the remaining packages would be to sign deals with BT or Sky at higher prices. Sky is restricted from holding rights to more than 20 additional matches, however, due to competition rules.

The league could also opt not to sell them and instead stream matches onto its own digital platform, charging to watch.

The lower-tier English Football League recently came to this arrangement for a number of matches in its latest agreement.

The deal that was agreed last week — that saw Sky snagging more rights than ever before and paying less for Premier League rights through 2022 — was seen as a bonus for Sky suitors 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney, and Comcast. The deal offered buyers comfort about the profit outlook of its pay-TV business.

Fox is awaiting UK regulatory approval to buy the remaining stake of Sky that it doesn’t already own, and has agreed to sell the broadcaster to Disney as part of a $52.4bn (€42.2bn) film-and-TV asset deal.

Comcast is also said to still be eyeing some of Fox’s assets, driven by its interest in Sky.

Sky and rival BT together paid a lower price for most of the rights over the three seasons than in the previous auction.

It was the first time in 15 years that the per-game price has declined, signalling a more rational approach by the broadcasters after years of rampant price inflation.

Premier League soccer has long been key to attract and retain TV and broadband subscribers in the UK and Ireland and the cost of the rights has surged 30-fold over the past 25 years.

Media and telecom carriers had been bracing for the potential of having to shell out even more as web giants including Amazon and Facebook dip their toes into sport to expand their video businesses.

Bloomberg

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