The world’s biggest internet company, Amazon’s annual revenue of £100bn is almost three times that of its two potential rivals combined and it could easily afford to blow both out of the water.
Amazon has held talks over the UK rights to the Premier League ahead of next month’s auction. In a move that will fuel speculation the internet giant is considering challenging Sky and BT for domestic coverage of the world’s richest league, Amazon has been consulting industry experts about the practicalities of adding top-flight English football to its fledgling portfolio of live sport.
The development was confirmed on Thursday by two well-placed sources, while Amazon itself refused to confirm or deny whether it was exploring bidding for the UK rights for the Premier League for the three years between 2019-22.
Its signing of a deal with BT last month that will allow the two rivals to sell each other’s channels from next year had been seen as the biggest indication yet that the pair were not prepared to pay substantially more for the rights that they had three years ago.
Indeed, BT had already begun to retreat from its bidding war with Sky, having succeeded in stemming its hemorrhaging of broadband customers to its arch-rival. One source revealed the company had sounded out external experts about exactly what was required in the broadcast of live top-flight football due to its own lack of experience in the field.
Amazon could also struggle to secure a return on a multi-billion pound investment and while it has the cash reserves to use Premier League football as a so-called ‘loss leader’, its sports rights strategy so far suggests a less cavalier approach. Last year saw it snatch the UK rights to both tennis’s US Open and the ATP World Tour in five-year deals worth a combined £80 million, a modest investment in relation to its turnover.
The purchases nevertheless demonstrated it was not only interested in bidding for sports rights on a worldwide basis.It may not even need to spend billions to secure a slice of Premier League football in the UK if its intention is merely to test the water during the 2019-22 seasons.
As exclusively revealed last month, entire rounds of matches have been made available under two of the seven packages being sold, which are likely to prove significantly cheaper than the other five. Showing multiple games simultaneously would also suit a streaming service like Amazon, albeit with the obvious drawback each package contains only two rounds out of the 38 played across the entire campaign.
Only time will tell whether Amazon will follow up its interest in the Premier League with a formal bid that could be crucial to clubs’ hopes of securing a substantial increase in the £5.14 billion they obtained from Sky and BT during the last rights auction.