Amazon 'in the mix' for leftover Premier League rights
Amazon, the online retail giant, is in the running to acquire the remaining packages of live rights in the UK to the Premier League in the three-year cycle starting in 2019, it has been reported.
The league said on Tuesday that there was “interest from multiple bidders” in the two packages, one of which comprises all 20 matches from one Bank Holiday and one midweek fixture programme and the other all 20 matches from two midweek fixture programmes.
Amazon is understood to be among the interested parties, according to the UK’s Times newspaper.
The main live rights packages were this week secured by incumbent broadcasters Sky (four packages totalling 128 games per season) and BT Sport (one package of 32 games per season) in deals worth a total of £4.464 billion ($6.28 billion)
However, the other two packages have yet to be sold, with some reports suggesting that the bids had not hit the base price.
It is thought that Sky and BT Sport might have been reluctant to bid highly for the packages given the production commitment required to broadcast so many games in a narrow window.
However, the tender document outlined that the Premier League would help the company buying the rights with “live transmission of simultaneous or overlapping matches” indicating that it would be able to stream the feed from its own production company to reduce the costs involved.
This week’s deals put paid to the suggestion that technology giants such as Amazon, Facebook and Google could swoop for the main Premier League rights packages.
However, the companies have already made moves into live sport, with Amazon landing ATP World Tour and US Open tennis rights in the UK and global rights to the NFL’s Thursday night games in a $50-million deal for last season, and exclusive rights to several rounds of the Premier League could be the next step.
Another option for the Premier League would be to retain the rights to trial an over-the-top service of its own, possibly in partnership with a technology company, maybe even as a precursor to a dedicated channel in the future.
Whatever the outcome, it is thought that the league will now struggle to match the £5.136 billion it generated in UK live rights revenues for the current cycle, even though the number of games is going up from 168 to 200 per season.
However, awarding remaining packages to a new player such as Amazon would help to generate a more competitive environment for future rights tenders.
As things stand, Sky will pay a total of £3.579 billion, or £9.3 million per game, in the next cycle, compared with £4.176 billion, or about £11 million per match, under the present deal, and will have two more fixtures per season.
The announced saving of £199 million per year boosted Sky's share price, and prompted talk that 21st Century Fox might be forced to increase its takeover offer for the 61 per cent of the broadcaster it does not already own, which currently stands at £11.7 billion.
BT Sport will show 10 fewer Premier League matches per season than at present, as things stand, with its outlay going down, from £960 million to £885 million, but will pay more per game - £9.2 million, compared with £7.6 million under the present deal.
The league has already agreed a three-year free-to-air highlights deal with the BBC worth £211.5 million, a slight increase, of 4 per cent, on the £204 million the public-service broadcaster shelled out last time, but has still to go to market with near-live rights, presently held by Sky, and digital-only packages in the UK.