Amazon has been actively exploring a possible acquisition of UK rights to the English Premier League in the run-up to next month’s auction, according to a report in UK newspaper The Telegraph.
According to the report, citing unnamed sources, Amazon has been talking to industry figures about how it could incorporate premium football in its live sports offering in the UK.
According to The Telegraph, Amazon has consulted industry experts about what is needed to create a top-tier football offering. However, there is no confirmation that the web giant has taken a decision to bid for the rights to the 2019-22 seasons.
Amazon’s possible entry into the bidding could have serious implications for Sky and BT, the current holders of Premier League rights. For both, the Premier League rights are central to their consumer offering.
The pair recently struck a deal whereby Sky made its sports offering available to BT TV subscribers via the integration of OTT offering Now TV into BT’s service and BT agreed to wholesale its sports channels to Sky for the first time.
There has been considerable speculation that a global internet giant such as Amazon, Facebook or Google could launch a bid for top-tier football following smaller-scale experiments in live sports. Amazon last year acquired rights to ATP tennis in the UK and Ireland, beating Sky.
Some observers are sceptical about the likelihood of a bid for Premier League football, however. In a column recently published by Digital TV Europe, former Sky COO Mike Darcey expressed the view that a bid by Amazon or another big web player is unlikely because the cost of replicating the strategy in multiple territories would be huge, because the streaming infrastructure required to provide a quality service is still lacking, and because the business model for the likes of Amazon – as against Sky – is unclear.
Darcey also argued that an Amazon bid for a smaller slice of the rights to “test the waters” could present more of a threat to BT than to Sky.
The Premier League is expected to offer seven packages in total in the auction, with 200 matches available in total. The League is hoping to raise more than the £5.14 billion (€5.77 billion) it secured under the current rights agreements with Sky and BT.