Amazon Buys Premier League Rights in Challenge to Broadcasters

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Amazon has acquired rights to show Premier League matches in the UK, confirming a new era in which digital platforms increasingly compete with traditional broadcasters to screen live sport.

The Premier League has announced that the US technology group will screen a total of 60 matches in Britain over three seasons, the first time a big digital company has entered the market for the most-watched competition in the country. The price Amazon paid for the games was not immediately revealed.

In a day of momentous change for one of the world’s most watched and valuable sporting competitions, Richard Scudamore, executive chairman, also announced that he would step down by the end of the year.

Mr. Scudamore has overseen a period of enormous growth for the Premier League, transforming it into the richest division in world football and giving English clubs the means to pay huge transfer fees and wages to attract superstar footballers.

Earlier this year, he conducted the Premier League’s latest auction for the rights to broadcast matches in the UK between 2019 and 2022. In February, it was announced that Sky and BT had secured a large chunk of the domestic screening rights, paying a combined £4.46bn — significantly less than the £5.1bn achieved in the previous rights auction.

The Premier League took the unusual step of holding back the sale of two packages of matches that did not attract strong interest from the broadcasters. On Thursday, it announced that one of the packages had been picked up by Amazon, while another was taken by BT.

Each season, Amazon will be able to show an entire schedule of matches on one midweek night and one bank holiday, allowing viewers to pick the game they want to watch. In total, it will show 20 matches a season.

“We are extremely pleased that Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon have invested in these rights and all view the Premier League and our clubs as vital parts of their live sports offerings,” Mr Scudamore said, before the announcement of his departure.

The Premier League also revealed it would change how it allocates nearly £3bn in overseas broadcasting rights. From 2019, this money will be linked to where teams finish in the table, a victory for the wealthiest English clubs which will secure more money as a result.

Amazon and other technology groups are increasingly pushing into live sport, challenging traditional broadcasters which have used them to underpin their subscription packages to consumers.

Amazon outbid Sky to win exclusive UK rights for men’s tennis world tour matches this year in a deal worth a reported $40m, while in the US it has reached a $130m deal with the NFL to screen American football matches on Thursday nights for the next two seasons.

Over the past year, Facebook and Twitter have looked to secure global sports rights as they compete to keep users on the platforms, including bidding for NFL games and Indian Premier League cricket.

For the Premier League, huge increases in the value of its domestic television rights made it the richest division in world football, allowing English clubs to make record transfer signings and offer higher wages to superstar footballers than their European rivals.

BT had already paid £295m for 32 games in this year’s auction. On Thursday, the company said it had paid £90m for the additional games, meaning it has spent £975m in total for 52 games a season, compared with £960m for 42 games under its current deal.

Paolo Pescatore, an analyst with CCS Insight, said Amazon’s entry would help Mr Scudamore “save face” after a “disastrous” auction in which two packages were unsold.

But he added it was bad news for consumers who would need to subscribe to Sky, BT and now Amazon Prime to see all the matches. “This is disastrous for consumers, particularly hardcore Premier League fans, as it is another package they will have to buy,” he said.

 

CREDITS: FT.COM

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