Amazon and Facebook are likely to ramp up their bidding over the next 12 to 18 months for the rights to stream live sporting events, according to a research note from GBH Insights’ Daniel Ives.
The note follows the news earlier this month that Facebook had secured exclusive rights to 25 Major League Baseball games, a move that Ives says is the “tip of the spear” for sports programming deals from tech companies.
With ESPN poised to launch its first over-the-top streaming subscription service ESPN Plus in the coming weeks, competition in the space is set to become tougher.
“We believe the next 12 to 18 months is a pivotal window for platforms like Facebook and Amazon among others to aggressively secure the rights to various professional sports programming,” Ives writes. “The Disney/ESPN launch of ESPN Plus over the coming year will be at the epicenter to [Disney CEO Bob] Iger’s master streaming initiatives and ‘raise the stakes’ for securing future sports content in our opinion.”
With regard to Facebook, Ives says that the MLB rights, combined with Mexican and UEFA soccer rights, indicate that the company is in the “early strategic steps of building out a massive wave of sports content spending over the coming few years.”
Amazon, coming off its “Thursday Night Football” deal, is also in prime position to secure sports rights.
“Google and Apple remain the wild cards in this battle for live sports content depending on their strategic content direction along with Snap and Twitter tangentially in the mix,” Ives adds.
While the most important sports video rights won’t be coming up for renewal in the near future, many second-tier rights (such as “Thursday Night Football” and other NHL/NBA games) may become available. Those rights could serve as a ripe testing ground for tech companies, potentially giving them the data they need to decide whether to bid for the more premium games that will come up for renewal in 2019 and 2020.