Amazon is poised to become a live sports powerhouse as soon as next year, a new report predicts, as more tech companies are seeking out streaming rights for top leagues in the U.S. and abroad.
The report from Juniper Research covers 10 tech trends for 2018. The presence of Amazon, and to a lesser extent Facebook, as top contenders for major sports packages is the firm’s number one trend to watch for next year.
Amazon’s biggest foray into live sports so far came when it dropped a reported $50 million to stream 11 NFL Thursday Night Football games. Amazon beat out several other bidders, including Twitter, which paid a reported $10 million to broadcast 10 games last season.
Facebook showed its interest in live sports when it put in an ultimately unsuccessful $600 million bid to stream a top cricket organization, the Indian Premier League. Sports Business Journal reported this week that Facebook is looking for a top-level executive to negotiate sports rights. That person would have a budget of “a few billion dollars.”
The report predicts that these tech giants will first go after packages to stream the top soccer league in the world, the English Premier League, and eventually compete for exclusive rights deals for major U.S. leagues.
Next year, an auction will determine who gets to stream and broadcast EPL matches, and Juniper expects costs for the rights to soar by more than 40 percent over the previous three-year packages because of increased competition from well-heeled tech giants.
Rights are split between Sky and BT under the current deal. Juniper predicts Amazon will bid for and win something similar to BT’s package of 42 games per season, which cost $1.3 billion over three years under the current deal.
The ultimate prize comes in exclusive coverage of major U.S. leagues, and if Amazon wants to go that direction, it will certainly have to pay up. Juniper cited NBC’s contract for Sunday Night Football — $950 million for 19 games until 2022. That works out to a per game cost of $50 million, the same Amazon paid for its entire package this season. Fox’s Major League Baseball package cost $500 million per season for 42 games, or close to $12 million per game.
While plenty of tech companies are expected to jump into the live sports bidding battles, Amazon should be the biggest winner, Juniper predicts. That’s because of Amazon Prime, the company’s subscription-based fast-shipping program. Live sports can be an enticement to bring in new customers, and studies show that Prime members spend more on Amazon than non-Prime customers. That means live sports would actually help pump up other parts of Amazon’s business.
“Amazon’s key card here is Amazon Prime,” according to the report. “Not only would it gain revenues from new Amazon Prime customers joining mainly for the football, but additionally revenues derived from retail sales by those customers via the Prime channel. This significantly reduces the number of new customers it would require to cover the costs of a rights package.”