Amazon Ups Sports Options, Preps For Future

Ho-hum results from digital media live streaming sports events? Ten years from now, we’ll all be thinking we were in that humming mood. Will consumers be humming a different tune?

Now Amazon is looking up the ante -- exploring live sports streaming -- expanding its digital video offerings. No worries here in 2016. ESPN, Fox Sports, ABC Sports, and NBC Sports aren’t shaking in their boots right now. But they are thinking ahead.

ESPN, Fox and Turner Sports, for example, have deals with Major League Baseball that run through 2021. NBC Sports has secured multiple Summer and Winter Olympic games through 2032. The NBA? ESPN (and ABC) are locked through the 2024-2025 season.

Amazon need to only build on what others have done previously. For all you might say about Twitter missing the boat on a lot of stuff, signing up to livestream Thursday night games wasn’t one of them.



Twitter has with the rights to stream 10 “Thursday Night Games.”

Alas, it isn’t perfect. The games aren’t exclusive -- only to the digital media space. It competes, in part, with CBS/NFL Network and now NBC/NFL Network simulcast those games on traditional linear TV. Digital video viewership for the biggest TV programming isn’t all that ground-breaking.

Even the beleaguered Yahoo should be given some credit.

In 2015, Yahoo paid $17 million for the rights to stream a game from London. No matter. These efforts give digital media valuable foothold on big TV stuff -- content that viewers will not seek to avoid TV commercials.

Overall, a better business distribution model is needed for the Amazons, Twitters, maybe even Facebook and Google to make pricey sports TV purchases work. Having those digital media services apps sitting easily on set-top boxes -- like Netflix has with some cable companies -- is only the first step.

Video transmission needs to be effortless flipping from say NBC, to Facebook, to Fox, and then to Amazon for pretty much instant video access.

When that day comes -- where 70% to 80% of whatever the new pay TV/media linear/digital ecosystem looks like in a decade -- it will mean a great deal to consumers.

Plus, Amazon, Facebook and Google will be thinking about new (old) competitors competing in the exact same space. Walt Disney has made a significant investment into tech company BAMTech, which hopes to more easily convert all ESPN content into a standalone digital app/network in the years to come.

Bottom line for consumers: Dreams of choosing the specific networks may be close at hand. But will that mean lower prices for that content -- and sports content in particular? I doubt it.

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