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Amazon Plans Bid for Premier League Streaming Rights

Corrected
  • U.K. soccer league may decide on media partners in February
  • Amazon wants to entice more people to take its Prime service

Amazon.com Inc. plans to bid for the rights to stream Premier League matches in the upcoming auction in the U.K., according to a source familiar with the matter, part of a broader strategy to bring more sports content to its global customers.

The digital giant sees such sporting events as American football, tennis and soccer matches as a way to get more people to subscribe to Prime memberships, which include video streaming and convert occasional customers into more loyal shoppers.

Its interest comes as no surprise to media analyst Richard Broughton, of Ampere Analysis, who said Amazon is “very likely” to bid for one of the smaller packages in the upcoming auction for Premier League live rights for broadcast in the U.K.

Broughton said he has been told that the digital giant is interested in adding to its sports footprint by making a tilt at the Premier League, Europe’s most prized live sports broadcast asset. The soccer league also has a growing audience in the U.S.

The auction for the Premier League’s live rights pulled in 5.1 billion pounds ($6.9 billion) in 2015 after broadcasters Sky and BT bid against each for the rights for three seasons and carved them up between them.

Ahead of this year’s auction there has been speculation that one or more of the digital giants, such as Amazon or Facebook Inc. might take on the traditional broadcasters for the first time, potentially causing an uplift in what is already seen as an expensive package.

Ed Woodward, the executive vice chairman of Manchester United, one of the league’s most powerful clubs, fueled the speculation in September when he said he expected one or more of the digital giants to bid. On a telephone call with investors, Woodward spoke of the tech companies’ recent interest in sports rights around the world, including a bid from Facebook for Indian cricket matches.

Amazon’s deals for live sport have so far focused on tennis and the National Football League, which are not the biggest draws for a U.K. audience that is far more interested in soccer. The e-commerce giant recently reached a pact to produce a documentary series with Manchester City, the current Premier League leaders, fueling the idea that it might seek to acquire live soccer rights.

Amazon declined to comment, but in a statement last November said: “We will continue to look to add content that Prime members want.” Prime is the service that offers Amazon customers video and music content as well as free delivery for a raft of consumer items, including groceries, for 79 pounds a year in the U.K. and $99 a year in the U.S.

Amazon tells investors the big investment in video pays off by enticing more people to join Prime, making them more loyal shoppers. In the U.S., where Amazon has the most Prime subscribers, members spend almost twice as much per year as Amazon customers who aren’t Prime members, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, which conducts quarterly surveys of Amazon shoppers.

The seven packages being offered by the Premier League in the auction, which is due to complete next month, vary from 32 matches to 20 matches each.

The Premier League declined to comment. Its small negotiating team is headed by Richard Scudamore, its chairman.

(Corrects cost of Amazon Prime in U.K.)
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