Amazon Prime Video Will Soon Get Live Sports Streaming

The popularity of video streaming today is forcing a decline in cable and satellite TV viewing. More and more people are opting for subscription-video-on-demand or streaming VOD, and the number of services has grown from when there was only Netflix, to where tech, retail and social media giants like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon are exploring this space in a serious way.

Within that streaming video segment is a niche that some of these companies are interested in – live-streamed sports. In the United States, sports broadcasting is big business. For example, did you know that ESPN – a Walt Disney company – pays nearly $2 billion each year for NFL broadcast rights? But now, it’s not just conventional media houses that are interested in this segment.

Twitter recently signed deals with several leagues and associations to stream live sporting events to their 310-million subscriber base in an attempt to capture more market share. Despite the fact that Twitter was launched only two years after Facebook, the company has been left in the dust by Zuckerberg’s juggernaut, which now counts over 1.65 billion active accounts around the world. To maintain its relevance in social media, Twitter is now trying to use live sports events to attract new audiences and keep their existing user base engaged, and it is already yielding results.

The High Cost of Sports Broadcasting Rights

As for Amazon, it wants to get into mainstream sports streaming for Amazon Prime, and has been pursuing streaming rights to major tennis and rugby events. But the question is:Why are they going after those instead of football, basketball and baseball, which their core North American market wants most of all? One major reason is exclusivity; in many cases, the rights to broadcast certain sporting events are under long-term exclusive contracts with veteran broadcasters like ESPN.

But Amazon may have a loophole to get into popular sports streaming in the United States. Major League Baseball, for example, has its own apps and websites for event-streaming. Amazon may now offer these same events as an add-on service for Prime Video users.

Amazon says that such paid extras are meant to entice hardcore sporting fans rather than casual users of Prime Video.

So with football and basketball unavailable to Amazon for the most part, they’re going after sports that have global appeal, such as tennis, soccer, rugby, golf and auto racing.

Amazon’s Part in the Great Streaming Movement

Over time, Amazon could well be thinking of setting up an independent sports streaming service that is separate from Prime Video. They’re already hiring the talent for it, and that includes ex-YouTube executive Charlie Nieman to take care of business development and sports partnerships, and James DeLorenzo, a former Sports Illustrated executive, to head up the sports division that Amazon is building out.

Although for the present, you’ll still get the best football, basketball and baseball games on TV, we could see a gradual shift to digital streaming as new players like Twitter and Amazon start strengthening their streaming portfolios. Netflix has repeatedly stated that they are not interested in sports streaming, but all of these companies have the financial muscle to bid alongside companies like ESPN and other big media names for streaming rights.

For you and I and the billions of “average” users around the world, this can only be a good thing. Why? Because competition is healthy for any industry segment. As conventional broadcasters face competition from new-age tech companies with massive user bases, we will see price cuts and other marketing mechanics kick in. Twitter has 310 million and Amazon Prime has over 80 million around the world, with nearly 55 million of those in the United States. And Facebook is also in the picture now along with Amazon in the quest for digital sports streaming rights.

This isn’t going to happen any time soon, however. With the tight grip that broadcasters currently have over the most popular sporting events in the world, it’s going to be a slow and painful transition. In the meantime, we get the benefit of having increasingly more sports streaming options coming from our favorite SVOD providers. And we’ll have companies like Amazon and Twitter to thank for it.

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