INTERNATIONAL - Amazon.com Inc. bought a package of live broadcasting rights for English Premier League soccer, the first foray by a U.S. tech giant into Europe’s most lucrative sports league.
Amazon will show two full rounds of matches per season, comprising 20 games, for three years starting in 2019, the Premier League said in a statement Thursday. The games will be available on Amazon Prime Video in the U.K. at no extra cost to users, Amazon said.
While only a handful of games, Amazon’s acquisition is a further sign of its push into live sports broadcasting as a way of luring subscribers to its Prime membership service, which includes video streaming and fast online grocery shopping. The move is also a potential threat to pay-TV incumbents Sky Plc and BT Group Plc, who broadcast the rest of the Premier League games in the U.K.
“The main thing is to drive uptake of Prime,” said Ian Whittaker, a media analyst at Liberum in London. “The rights are being used to lock people in to Prime and get them to spend more generally.”
Amazon has already bought rights to ATP tennis and NFL football games as part of its live sport push. The e-commerce giant is also soon to release a behind-the-scenes documentary series about Manchester City’s record-breaking 2017/18 Premier League season.
The small number of games acquired by Amazon means the move isn’t an immediate threat to Sky and BT, said Richard Broughton, a media analyst at Ampere Analysis, who predicts Amazon has approximately 7 million Prime subscribers in the U.K.
“It’s not going to cause anyone to cancel their Sky Sports or BT Sport subscription,” Broughton said. “But longer-term, it means Amazon will be able to make a more informed decision in the next round as to what the rights could mean for the Prime business.”
Sky and BT announced a deal to buy the bulk of the U.K. Premier League soccer rights in February, paying a combined 4.46 billion pounds ($6 billion). Sky will show 128 matches per season. BT paid 90 million pounds for a package of 20 additional matches also announced on Thursday, taking its total to 52 games a season.
The Premier League didn’t disclose the financial terms of the agreement with Amazon. Assuming the U.S. tech company spent a similar amount for its 20 games as BT did for its package, the total raised by the league this time around is still significantly lower than the 5.1 billion pounds raised in 2015, though the league is banking on international rights to make up the difference.
Amazon’s deal gives it the exclusive live rights to two full fixture rounds: the first December midweek round and the festive bank holiday round. Amazon subscribers will also be able to watch weekly highlights of all Premier League matches throughout the season.
“We welcome Amazon as an exciting new partner and we know Prime Video will provide an excellent service on which fans can consume the Premier League,” the league’s executive Chairman Richard Scudamore said in a statement.