Back at the start of December 2019, history was made in the world of UK broadcasting. Amazon Prime live streamed multiple Premier League matches simultaneously, becoming the first platform to take football’s most watched league in the world, exclusively online in the UK.
Sky has dominated broadcasting rights of the Premier League since its inception in 1992. The biggest matches, the best pundits, the most iconic moments captured – the Premier League simply wouldn’t be what it is today without Sky.
However, in recent years BT has flexed its muscles, slowly chipping away at Sky’s monopoly. First it was one match on a Saturday, then the odd mid-week game, to now – where BT has complete exclusivity on European football’s most premier competitions, as well as a prime Saturday lunchtime broadcasting slot.
While BT provides stern competition for Sky, it certainly isn’t a ‘game-changer’. In other industries intense competition between suppliers means that it’s the consumers that stand to benefit. However, that’s not really the case here. As Premier League matches became split across two paid-for television broadcasters, fans still need to subscribe to both in order to watch the biggest matches. So, it makes sense that Sky lowered its price in line with this?
Enter: Amazon Prime. A third subscription-based service which demands fans to part with more of their hard-earned cash in exchange for live Premier League football.
While it’s long been expected that the Premier League would sell off more broadcasting rights to have an online presence (Facebook a rumoured destination for some time), another paid-for service is simply too much to ask of fans. Surely this time, we didn’t fall for it, right? Un-surprisingly, we did.
Just last week it’s been reported that Amazon Prime overtook Netflix as the UK’s fast-growing streaming service, 35% growth in 2019 compared to Netflix’s 20%, credited in the main to its new Premier League broadcasting rights (do any of us actually watch Amazon original TV shows over Netflix?).
Am I guilty of contributing to this daylight robbery? Absolutely. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Like most things Amazon does, the end-result was pretty superb (my opinion may have been skewed had Chelsea not beaten Aston Villa 2-1). Most of us already have the Amazon app loaded onto our phones and tablets, and it’s already there on our smart TVs too.
MTV changed music in the 80s and remained on top until Spotify changed it again. Sky (MTV in this analogy), might be on top for now but it won’t last for long as fans eventually turn their back on rising prices for more technologically advanced services. And let’s be fair, it’s not like Amazon lacks budget when it comes to the next round of TV bidding.
As consumers, will we ultimately be the ones who benefit? Or will our monthly budgets be stretched by all this choice?
Just as the BBC continues to make cuts, Sky will surely be forced to expand Sky Go to become its main viewing platform or eventually succumb to the combination of Amazon (Spotify, in my excellent analogy), Netflix, Apple TV Plus and even the soon to be launched Disney+. The streaming wars are on, and who will win is anyone’s guess. But with Amazon setting its sights on one of the UK’s most prized assets, the Premier League, maybe that’s all the competitive advantage it needs.