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Premier League Rights Deal – Sky and BT Sport remain the big players for the next four years. What about the OTT platforms?



United Kingdom

It may be of no surprise to the pundits that five of the seven packages of Premier League matches for the 2019 to 2022 seasons have been awarded to Sky and BT Sport, with Sky winning four packages to broadcast 128 matches and BT Sport winning one package to broadcast 32 matches live each season for a total of £4.464bn.

However, it is certainly curious as to why OTT platforms did not win any of these packages, given that there has been an initial movement of sports media rights from traditional linear TV to OTT platforms. For example, Amazon recently purchased ATP tennis rights, with Amazon Prime members in the UK and Ireland having exclusive access to 37 ATP world tour events. 

There are two possible reasons why OTT platforms were not prominent in this round of bidding. First, the technical infrastructure on OTT platforms may require refinement to provide the high / ultra-definition live product that viewers would expect when consuming Premier League content. Secondly, as new players in the high ticket sports rights market, the OTT platforms may still be tinkering with their advertising and marketing strategies to recoup against the costs of the rights. As a result, such platforms may not be prepared to allocate the same budget as Sky and BT Sport for these rights, and instead would prefer to settle for lower valued content such as the ATP rights, where the numbers we are talking about are £10 million over the course of five years rather than several billion pounds.

Focussing on Amazon as a case study: by purchasing the ATP rights (and potentially involving itself in the bidding for the last two (less prestigious and lower value) packages of Premier League rights), it allows Amazon the freedom to develop an overall sports product with refined technical content and more tailored marketing strategy to enable it to make more serious bids for the highest value rights at the next Premier League auction. It is also important to remember that Amazon's goal in acquiring rights is to attract more Amazon Prime customers, who will then purchase everything under the Amazon Prime brand. Amazon therefore does not need to maximise the revenue it receives from the rights (the way Sky and BT do) so it can be more strategic in the rights it buys - i.e. it definitely does not need to buy everything in the hope that certain products will be profitable. How Facebook/Twitter fit into this matrix is another question and for now they probably sit between the likes of Amazon/Netflix and traditional broadcasters.

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