Online retailer and streaming video provider Amazon has reportedly been talking to professional and college sports leagues in a bid to set up a live sports streaming offering.
The National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer are among the professional leagues that Amazon has met with in recent months to discuss broadcast rights, according to a report Monday in The Wall Street Journal.
Amazon is looking to create a premium sports programming package for its Prime subscribers, people familiar with the situation have said The newspaper. Among the programs Amazon has sought an exclusive deal for is the NBA League Pass, which offers out-of-market games. But the NBA preferred its current method, which consolidates games through multiple outlets, a person at the Log.
Amazon has shown interest in live NFL games in recent years and has also spoken with the NBA about streaming live sports, people familiar with the discussions told USA TODAY. These people did not give their names because they were unable to comment publicly on the matter. Amazon did not return a request for comment on the report.
Sports leagues have recently expanded their online streaming offerings with NFL streaming games on Yahoo and Twitter. Twitter also has deals to start showing Major League Baseball and National Hockey League games.
“The NFL has already dabbled in Yahoo and Twitter – why not Amazon? But I don’t expect any major changes to NFL contracts in the near future,” said Bruce Leichtman, president of Leichtman Research Group. . Even though Amazon is starting to deliver off-market professional games, he said, “I don’t think there’s going to be a ‘big hit’ for pay TV coming from Amazon via live sports in the near future.”
Live sports have been one of the bulwarks protecting pay TV providers from cord cuts. Pay-TV providers lost about 755,000 subscribers in the past year, compared to a loss of about 445,000 the previous year, according to Leichtman Research Group. Overall, about 82% of US households with televisions subscribe to pay TV, up from 87% in 2011, but similar to 82% of subscribed households in 2005, according to the research firm.
The move to sports streaming makes sense, says Joel Espelien, principal analyst at The Diffusion Group. “Amazon is looking for content that will generate subscription revenue,” he said.
And live sports — something Netflix has avoided so far — would help Amazon Prime’s video offering stand out, Espelien said. “The world is becoming saturated with original dramas and movies are a commodity. Sports is one of the few areas where you can differentiate yourself.”
Amazon’s reported interest in international sports such as curling, lacrosse and cricket also rings true, he said. “The game here is likely to be global. The US sports market is incredibly crowded… (but) other markets have been dominated by a local sport (like football, cricket), with much more room for interest to grow,” he said. “Look how well the NFL is doing in Mexico with their Monday night game tonight. I was in Colombia recently and saw a surprising amount of interest in American football. The NFL has a lot more flexibility internationally and Amazon could potentially expand that market for them with less risk of a distribution conflict with other distribution partners like Fox.”
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