Last night in a “game changing” move Amazon officially bid and won the rights to Premier League matches for 2019-2022 in one of the remaining packages available after Sky and BT bought five bundles earlier this year. As part of Amazon’s package the company will have the rights to 20 games per season from 2019-2022. We believe this is a major step forward on the sports bidding rights for Amazon as we expect the company to aggressively bid on more professional and collegiate sports rights over the coming years. This comes on the heels of Facebook’s agreement that will allow the social media stalwart to stream 25 weekly games starting this season represents the “tip of the spear” for sports programming content initiatives over the coming years in our opinion. These 25 games will be distributed via Facebook Watch as part of MLB Live show Page, making this MLB’s first digital-only distribution and was unanimously approved by 30 Major League Clubs. To this point, we believe the next 12 to 18 months is a pivotal window for platforms like Facebook and Amazon among others to aggressively secure the rights to various professional sports programming especially as the Disney/ESPN launch of ESPN Plus over the coming year will be at the epicenter to Iger’s master streaming initiatives and “raise the stakes” for securing future sports content in our opinion.
Amazon still remains in pole position to win incremental sporting rights as their success with the NFL’s Thursday Night Football simulcast package this past season and already signed up for the next few years and other efforts could open the door over the coming years for bidding and winning other major content packages to stream including the remaining With Amazon planning to spend $5 billion+ on content in 2018 based on our estimate, we believe the company’s deep pockets, 100 million+ Prime members and growing, and established streaming franchise makes Bezos & Co. a potential major disruptive force to future live sports rights with Facebook also a clear potential player. Google and Apple remain the wild cards in this battle for live sports content depending on their strategic content direction along with Snap and Twitter tangentially in the mix. We note in 2021, the year when the NFL, MLB and NHL media rights deals mostly end, will be the first major opportunity for Amazon, Facebook, and other major tech streaming platforms to potentially bid on some of these rights vs the likes of traditional entrenched media/cable players. We will be watching this sports content battle closely over the coming year as well as the success/engagement from the Facebook MLB endeavor as it could be a sign of things to come with streaming platforms playing a bigger role in global professional sports broadcasting rights in the years ahead and potentially shaking up this market, while adding a major notch on the content belts of Amazon, Facebook, and other new tech entrants to this arena.