Amazon Is Plotting to Enter the Streaming Sports Fray

-Will Take on Twitter for Live Sports Rights

By Brittany Demmon

There is no doubt that Twitter has been leading the pack in the race to be the online video destination for live sports coverage but the market could get more crowded as Amazon is said to be looking into securing video rights for both domestic and foreign sports according to a report from Bloomberg, citing “people with knowledge of the matter.”

Until now, Amazon has been somewhat absent in the live sports streaming market after losing out on the rights to stream NFL Thursday Night Football to Twitter. But it appears the online retailer is plotting an entrance into the Internet sports streaming market as it is reportedly pursuing video rights for a variety of sports, largely sports that appeal to more global audiences such as tennis, football (soccer), rugby and auto racing.

In the US, streaming rights to sports that are popular to domestic audiences like American football, basketball and baseball are difficult to come by since most rights are tied up in deals for years to come, one reason why those Thursday Night Football games were so highly sought by many different online networks. In media sports properties are the most expensive rights to secure in the market so even when the rights are up for grabs they come at a steep price.

Focusing on international sports streaming rights will give Amazon more content options. Football or soccer as it is known in the US is the most popular sport in the world so it will have an array of clubs across the world to score the streaming rights to which in turn would lure new audiences as well as advertisers eager to reach those eyeballs. By delivering live streams of sports to international audiences Amazon would be instantly more appealing to viewers that might be cord cutters or cord shavers but still eager to watch sporting events plus Amazon Prime is sporting about 65 million domestic users, all of which are a captive audience for possible sports streaming deals.

And in the US, Amazon still could have to opportunity to deliver live sports if it is open to delivering in a different way besides live streaming directly from it’s Website, and it already is in a way. Amazon already gives users the opportunity to subscribe to pay TV services to Comcast where it is available – including the distributors’ sports programming. Most TV rights to major sports in the US are owned by CBS Corp., Comcast’s NBCUniversal, Turner Sports, Fox and ESPN. And media companies are holding on tight to those streaming rights as they are the last and most important feature of traditional linear TV and key maintaining viewership and the big advertising dollars. However, Major League Baseball, for example, has its own network and is already streaming live games over the Internet via its apps and services, which Amazon could offer as an add-on service, much like how it offers subscriptions to Showtime or Starz.

Amazon is entering a market that as of now is dominated by traditional broadcasters, but it has the goal of being competitive with the online streaming services and now the online social video networks since all are trying to get a hold of live sports streaming rights

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The exception is Netflix, which has been steadfast with its position as an on demand streaming service and claims zero interest in live streaming in order to not cannibalize the very nature of Netflix. But that does not mean that Amazon will not still be competing with it. Amazon is one of the main Netflix competitors and offering on demand content from traditional broadcasters, original programming and now possibly live sports would give users a major reason to consider Amazon over Netflix. In markets like Japan, Germany and the UK soccer is a huge appeal and offering live coverage could give Amazon a boost in subscribers, not to mention all of the other perks that come from an Amazon Prime membership. For consumers that are not willing to pay for more than one service, sports programming is enough reason to pick Amazon over Netflix. And Netflix will not fight back.

Also on the domestic front is Hulu, which is planning its own Internet TV service. On the streaming service front, it will be Amazon’s main rival when it comes to sports coverage since it is expected to deliver major broadcast channels that deliver live sports as well as sports channels. Chances are that Hulu will have a superior offering, but for a price and this will only be available and appeal to US audiences.

Twitter is the video network to beat at this point as the company has already secured deals with the NFL, NHL, and MLB for streaming select live game coverage, plus Twitter will be streaming live coverage of PAC-12 Network sports events, the joint network of the PAC-12 collegiate conference. Twitter also recently live streamed Wimbledon tennis tournament in preparation for the NFL Thursday Night Football live broadcasts that began on September 15, a venture that has the potential to earn Twitter a lot of advertising dollars, the main motivation for broadcasting live sports.

Twitter is selling ads for the live sports video for the first time and advertising packages for the 10 games to be broadcast on Twitter ranger for $1 million to $8 million dollars, according to the Wall Street Journal. Many advertisers are hesitant to invest since the live streaming deal with the NFL is unchartered territory and people are unsure of the audience tune in on Twitter but the potential ad revenue is still coming in as companies like Sony, Verizon and Anheuser-Busch have all signed on. These are the dollars Amazon is looking to tap into.

Amazon is looking to tap into a different audience than Twitter is with its NFL deal by looking for rights to international sports like tennis and soccer but the same opportunity to make deals with advertisers is still there…

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