Tech companies are starting to edge out traditional broadcasters in the lucrative sporting events market as young people increasingly look online to watch their favourite teams and players.
The most recent battle for Premier League television rights may have ended with Sky maintaining its stranglehold on the prize of British sports broadcasting, buying up the majority of the most hotly anticipated matches, with BT buying up the rights to broadcast much of the rest, but there are signs that change is coming.
2017 saw Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter all buy rights to broadcast sporting events around the world, in an effort to lure sports fans onto their platforms with uniquely engaging sports content packages. Facebook has acquired the rights to live stream 2017/18 UEFA Champions League matches as well as at least 22 Major League Soccer and 46 Mexican soccer league games, World Surf League tournaments and Crossfit events – all of which will be streamed for free as the social network attempts to drive growth in its Facebook Live video platform. Last year, Facebook live-streamed the ICC’s Champions Trophy cricket final after no network snapped up the rights, and while its
£456m bid for the rights to stream five years of cricket games from the Indian Premier League (IPL) failed, it shows the social network is not afraid to pay large sums for content it thinks its users will love.
Meanwhile, Amazon has picked up the UK rights to stream the US Open (tennis) and 37 ATP tour events to try and tempt more users into subscribing to its premium Amazon Prime service, alongside its deal to stream live NFL matches. Some had expected the ecommerce giant to also bid for the rights to some Premier League matches, but the astronomical prices paid by Sky and BT for those rights appears to have kept the US firm at bay for another year.
Twitter has long been the place where people discussed sporting events in real-time, and its trial live-streaming NFL games last season was a success. However, after Amazon snapped up the rights to stream those NFL game this year, Twitter has decided to try and get a head-start in the Asia/Pacific market, tying up important content partnerships with the NBA, Fox Sports Asia, Riot Games, Melbourne Cup, and Eleven Sports.
Over the next few years, we are likely to see a complete reorganisation of the sports broadcasting industry as these tech giants continue to buy up rights to events around the world to complement their media offerings. Whilst most of these events will be monetised through advertising, supported by the related growth of sports betting sites, it will be interesting to see whether streaming giant Netflix decides to get in on the action and compete with a premium ad-free sports streaming service to compete with the likes of the BBC.
Photograph by MarkusWeber93