2018 Could Be Big Year For Sports Streaming Rights

This year Amazon will win exclusive rights to "Thursday Night Football," Rich Greenfield, an analyst with BTIG Research, wrote in a note Monday predicting some notable events in the streaming sports ecosystem.

“With the MVPD bundle in secular decline and TV viewership declines pressuring advertising sales, the time is ripe for the NFL to experiment and move outside their historic comfort zone,” Greenfield wrote. “The NFL needs new, deep-pocketed partners to sustain revenue growth in the decades ahead. We also believe a bold rights acquisition by Amazon would increase the urgency for other tech platforms to license NFL content.”

Right now, Amazon streams a simulcast of the Thursday night games, which air on TV on NBC, CBS or NFL Network, depending on the week.

The company has shown signs it wants to start aggressively bidding on live sports rights. Such moves would serve to differentiate its content from on-demand exclusive competitors like Netflix.

Greenfield also predicted that Facebook could emerge as a bidder for WWE programming that currently airs on cable channels owned by NBCUniversal. Facebook will start running a live weekly WWE show called “WWE Mixed Match Challenge” starting this month, suggesting that the social network has the appetite for such programming.

If the new streaming show does well for Facebook’s Watch platform, it's reasonable to think the company’s marquee shows, “Raw” and “Smackdown,” could follow.

Still, Greenfield was not all bullish on streaming sports video. He predicted that ESPN’s direct-to-consumer streaming service, which is scheduled to launch this year, may not have the traction the company is hoping for.

“ESPN DTC essentially feels like an add-on for the sports superfan, rather than a product aimed at cord-cutters/cord-shavers/cord-nevers,” Greenfield wrote, noting that the service will primarily show sporting events not available on ESPN’s TV platforms.

2018 is already shaping up to be a big year in the streaming and OTT video spaces. With a slew of new entrants joining established skinny bundles from Hulu, YouTube, Dish and others, and with tech giants opening up their wallets for original content, the fight for viewer time will only intensify.

2 comments about "2018 Could Be Big Year For Sports Streaming Rights".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, January 9, 2018 at 4:51 p.m.

    I don't know a lot about the US market, but would anyone else be willing to predict that Rich Greenfield will be wrong?    Could be another 'story' for MP.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 10, 2018 at 9:31 a.m.

    Amazon and others may try to "agressively" bid on premium sports attractions in an effort to counter Netflix and other rivals, but while audience is not the main appeal of sports sponsorships, advertisers will not pay big bucks for sports packages that reach miniscule numbers of viewers. Also, the leagues will not want to have their games presented to tiny audiences as this will quickly diminish their appeal to fans who suddenly lose access to the games. So even if Amazon, somehow succeeds in wooing the exclusive rights to the NFL games---which I seriously doubt would be possible-----it would be operating at a collossal loss rate and, worse, unless some mechanism was found to attract timely audiences at least half as high as linear TV now gets, advertiser interest would be minimal.

    A far more likely scenario is for Amazon and other digital sports wannabies to acquire the rights to relatively small and secondary sports events---and slowly try to gain a foothold in this genre, while learning how to fashion the kinds of promotional tie-ins that advertisers really crave. It's not only about the audience, it's much more about the promotability.

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