Amazon and Christmas are a familiar pairing. But from 2019, live Premier League football will add an intriguing new element to that established partnership.
The online retailer will join Sky and BT in broadcasting English football’s top flight after winning the rights to show all 10 matches on Boxing Day as part of the three-year deal.
The games will be available free to Amazon Prime’s UK members, who will also be able to watch a round of midweek games as part of the package.
But what does the deal mean for fans, for Amazon’s rivals and for the Premier League? BBC Sport attempts to answer some of the key questions…
Why have Amazon got involved?
To attract customers. They will see live Premier League football as a loss-leader and have deliberately targeted the Christmas period.
Their rationale is simple. People will sign up for a free 30-day trial to watch the 26 December games and that will bring a huge surge of new customers around the busiest time of year.
Some will watch the games for free and not maintain their subscriptions after that first month, but Amazon are happy to take that hit and bank on the fact plenty will like what they see and stick around.
How much is this going to cost me?
In terms of the Amazon games, nothing if you already have an annual £79 Prime membership.
But if you want to watch every one of your team’s games, you will likely have to fork out subscriptions to Sky and BT as well.
Exactly how much that would cost is hard to pin down, but it’s not outlandish to suggest fans would have to part with somewhere in the region of £100 a month in total for the pleasure.
In response, the Premier League will say not every fan wants to watch every game. And Amazon will point to the fact that their annual package also includes the likes of deliveries, movies, books and music.
But the Football Supporters’ Federation has expressed misgivings, stating that supporters already think there is “too much live football on TV”.
“Introducing a third broadcaster means more subscriptions for fans,” a statement read. “We are concerned that the number of games could have a negative effect on attendances by away fans in particular.
“It is vital that more of these television revenues are invested in guaranteeing the participation and contribution of match-goers.”
Are Amazon going to replace Sky and BT?
This deal is a significant moment in the way in which live sports rights are sold.
Amazon view it as a relatively risk-free way to examine the potential of sports broadcasting – three seasons, two rounds of games, what works and what doesn’t work. It can then decide if it is worth mounting a challenge next time round.
When those negotiations for the next deal begin – some time in the next couple of years – the way we watch sport will likely look very different. Fans will follow games on the most convenient screen, whether that be a phone, tablet or smart TV.
That brings the internet giants further into play and it will be fascinating to see if they can disrupt Sky’s near 26-year dominance of the rights since the Premier League began.
|What are the packages?|
|Package A – won by BT||32 matches on Saturdays at 12:30|
|Package B – won by Sky Sports||32 matches on Saturdays at 17:30|
|Package C – won by Sky Sports||24 matches on Sundays at 14:00 and eight matches on Saturdays at 19:45|
|Package D – won by Sky Sports||32 matches on Sundays at 16:30|
|Package E – won by Sky Sports||24 matches on Mondays at 20:00 or Fridays at 19:30/20:00 and eight matches on Sundays at 14:00|
|Package F – won by Amazon||10 matches from one Bank Holiday and all 10 from the Boxing Day fixture programme|
|Package G – won by BT||20 matches from two midweek fixture programmes|
Is this what the Premier League wanted?
Not exactly. What the league got was way down on what it was after.
Amazon have not declared how much they paid but it is though the total spent on the right will fall short of the record-breaking £5.14bn existing deal, given that Sky and BT have said they are parting with £4.55bn for the three-year period until 2022.
The Premier League created two bespoke packages (F and G in the table above) as a toe in the water to gauge the interest from online giants such as Amazon, Netflix, Google, Facebook and Apple.
It knew there was some big money and wanted to tempt online buyers and drive prices up by sparking a bidding war in the same way it had with Sky and BT in the previous deal. But that did not materialise.
Perhaps it was a little to early for those companies, as they are not sure how to monetise live sport fully and remain a little cautious about the benefits to them,
These are global companies that buy global rights in different territories. These rights were for the UK only. So the question for them was: is the market there to justify the cost? Amazon thinks there is.
So are clubs going to be short of cash?
The Premier League is relaxed about domestic rights dipping.
Sure, it wanted a steady increase – preferably a double-digit rise – to follow the astounding 70% uplift on the previous deal, but the burgeoning value of international rights will cover any shortfall.
The league knows the biggest growth comes globally and that bigger money is coming. They have recently signed a mega deal in China and the broader Asian continent and the United States are thriving markets.
That is why the ‘big six’ clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham – have been pushing hard for a bigger piece of the pie. They believe they are the ones who attract that global audience and want rewarding accordingly.
The 14 other clubs, meanwhile, have said “you need us as much as we need you”.
The Premier League’s clever trick has been to balance all those interests.
Under a new agreement announced on Friday, increases in international TV money will in future be distributed according to league position. The maximum any club can receive is 1.8 times the amount given to the lowest-earning club.
Everyone seems fairly happy with that. Clubs know the domestic deal is solid, and what they will pull in through to 2022.
And while the international TV agreement breaks from the Premier League’s founding principles, it was perhaps inevitable given it is designed to try and prevent the big clubs pulling further away.