So, Amazon has bid for and won a package of the English Premier League football (EPL) rights from the 2019/20 season onwards. This allows them to stream all matches from one bank holiday and one group of midweek fixtures – 20 matches in total. If this is offered on their Prime subscription service this could mark a turning point where sports broadcasting moves away from the traditional model, and towards an on-demand service.
Do the maths…
A quick look at last year’s Boxing Day fixtures shows that eight matches were played on Boxing Day itself and two on subsequent days. Of those ten matches, only four were actually broadcast live on Sky, with two on Boxing Day and two matches on following days. Kick off times have also been shifted about to accommodate the fact that broadcasters can’t broadcast all of the matches at the same time. There’s a reason that you can now have a nearly a whole weekend of football, with starting times at 12:30pm, 3pm, 5pm on a Saturday, 2.15 and 4.30 on a Sunday and a sprinkling of matches through Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and the odd Friday.
Amazon’s internet platform will be capable of streaming all these matches, live, simultaneously. Every fan of every team can stay in the comfort of their own home, in the warm and dry and watch their team. It’s not the same as being there live, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it saved a family argument or two over what game to watch.
No traditional broadcast platform could compete with this, week in week out with every match, live.
The pros and cons
From a technical perspective, broadcast platforms cannot accommodate the number of matches that could be on at one time. There simply isn’t enough bandwidth via satellite or terrestrial or cable to simultaneously broadcast ten matches, at least not for forty plus weeks of the year!
In addition, commercially it isn’t as attractive for broadcasters to broadcast all of the games once a week, at 3pm on a Saturday. There are far less advertising slots available compared to spreading the matches over four or five days. Internet streaming and Amazon may not see this as a particular issue.
The viewer, however, will benefit from this as they have more access to the games they want to watch, but the English Premier League will want to ensure they maximise the value of their rights. If the average Sky Sports viewer only watches between one and two matches per week out of the sometimes six on offer, it’s not cost effective for anyone. Maybe the overall value will decrease but it is something the EPL will have to look at for the next round of bidding.
Next time there should be far more games available for internet streaming – it may be a way the EPL can grow their revenues. Maybe even through a direct to consumer offering not unlike F1 has now launched.
It’s uncertain that such a small number of games will entice multiple viewers to subscribe to Amazon, although a very welcome boost for those current customers who might not pay for Sky or BT Sports but will be delighted to see some Premier League games on their TV a couple of times a year.