Amazon is going to broadcast Premier League football. This is why that’s a huge move
The Sky/BT duopoly of Premier League football has come to an end. The new beneficiary of this is simultaneously predictable and wholly surprising – Amazon.
Like Amazon’s other TV shows and movies, from the 2019/20 season, Premier League football will be available as part of a Prime Video subscription, which itself comes as standard as part of an Amazon Prime subscription. And while the service won’t be rivalling Sky and BT in terms of quantity – it’s only agreed 20 matches per season for the duration of the three-year contract – the delivery mechanism is quite unusual.
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Amazon is promising “two full fixture rounds,” meaning you essentially get every team playing two matches. The fixtures will be over two periods in December, and that some will clash with each other – although an Amazon spokesperson pointed out to me that you could still watch multiple matches at the same time, on different devices if you wish if you like to multitask. One set will be a midweek group of fixtures, while the other will be over the Boxing Day period.
Is that it?
On the surface, this doesn’t sound like a lot – certainly nothing to leave Sky quaking in its boots, but make no mistake: this is huge. Just not for consumers yet.
First of all, Amazon is showing every team equally, and all at the same time. Previously, a degree of editorial control would be part of the proceedings, with broadcasters extremely keen on showing Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea, but mysteriously less enthusiastic about Huddersfield, Burnley and Watford. As Amazon points out, this is the first time every match on a day has been shown in the UK. Well, legally anyway – as we’ve explained before, dodgy overseas streams are a huge headache for the Premier League to police, and Amazon is giving a legal avenue for the same experience: albeit in an initially small testbed.
I call it a testbed, and that’s the second point. Amazon is owned by the world’s richest man, and if this proves to be a successful way of driving Prime subscriptions, there’s nothing stopping Amazon going all in and outbidding Sky for more rights when they come up for auction again in three years’ time. Remember, the whole reason Amazon bothers with video is – as Jeff Bezos puts it – to “sell more shoes”.
The final point is related to this. Amazon’s press release mentions the fixtures will be broadcast for the “first December midweek round and the festive Bank Holiday round”. That’s not the result of throwing a dart at a calendar: these are when Amazon is trying its hardest to sell products in the build up to Christmas. If it can shift a few more Prime subscriptions in the process, then regular gift-buying orders will be all the easier, and Amazon’s shareholders are going to have a very happy Christmas.
In the past, Amazon has studied the data hard to see what shows push people into buying Prime. The Premier League is some of the most expensive broadcasting rights in the world, and Amazon is about to find out once and for all whether it’s worth the high price tag.