Is Amazon warming up for a Premier League rights bid?

Cantillon: Tech giant may turn to English soccer to grow Prime Video

Sky blues: Amazon’s agreement to produce a documentary series that goes behind the scenes at Manchester City confirms that the US company has heard of more than American football.  Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty

Sky blues: Amazon’s agreement to produce a documentary series that goes behind the scenes at Manchester City confirms that the US company has heard of more than American football. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty

 

It is not a new rumour in the television industry that Amazon may seek to build its Prime Video business in this part of the world by entering the soccer-rights fray. But now the next three-year auction for English Premier League rights is about to kick off, the sideline whispers are getting louder. It will be no surprise if Amazon splurges on a pack, or several packs, of soccer matches from the 2019-20 season onwards.

The speculation is backed by logic. The Premier League plans to open up more matches for live screening, potentially allowing space for a third rights holder alongside Sky and BT Sport. For Amazon to build subscribers quickly in a region where its service is on the nascent side, it can differentiate itself from Netflix and emulate the success of the more traditional pay-TV competition in one swoop by snatching up rights to big-league sports.

Amazon is already dabbling in sports rights at a lower level, experimenting with live Thursday-night American-football games from the NFL and taking (from Sky) the exclusive rights to ATP men’s tennis tour events from 2019.

This week, when Eurosport announced a new five-year deal with the United States Tennis Association to show the US Open across Europe from 2018, the UK and Ireland were conspicuous by their absence from the territories covered – suggesting that Amazon may add this grand-slam event to its slate.

But it seems unlikely that Amazon will stop at tennis and a spot of NFL, and its recent agreement to produce a documentary series that goes behind the scenes at Manchester City this season confirms that the US company has heard of this other kind of football.

And it may not be the only tech giant turning its attention to the Premier League. As it marches down the tunnel to the pitch for the first time, Amazon may find itself shoulder to shoulder with none other than Facebook.