More than a decade after Apple changed the music business and Amazon changed the way people shop, the tech giants are now looking to change live sports.
Apple and Amazon are negotiating for media rights held by the National Football League, Major League Baseball, Formula One racing, and college conferences. They feel confident because they have a lot of money and want more people to watch their streaming-subscription services.
They are competing to replace DirecTV as the owner of the NFL Sunday Ticket package, which the league wants to sell for more than $2.5 billion a year, or about $1 billion more than it costs now, according to multiple people familiar with the process. Two people who know about the offer say that Google has also put in a bid from YouTubeTV for the rights starting in 2023.
Why Tech Is Making a Big Play for Live Sports
Sports leagues are thrilled by the involvement of digital giants, while media organizations are terrified by the threat of competition from competitors who have tens of billions of dollars in other sectors. Last year, 95 of the top 100 most-watched TV shows were about sports
The N.F.L. Sunday Ticket package, which shows out-of-market Sunday NFL games that aren’t on local TV, is available because DirecTV decided not to bid. It has been losing up to $500 million a year on the package, but it has been helped by the fact that it has a steady base of about 2 million subscribers.
The NFL Launches NFL +
There is now a streaming service for the National Football League.
NFL+ costs $4.99 per month or $39.99 for the whole year.
All out-of-market preseason games will be included in a subscription. Before, you could only watch those games if you paid $99.99 per year for NFL Game Pass. On August 4, the Jacksonville Jaguars play the Las Vegas Raiders to start the NFL preseason. Since that game will be shown on national TV, it won’t be on NFL+.
Live access to local and prime-time regular season and postseason games, which was previously free on the Yahoo Sports app, will also be added to NFL+.
With NFL+, the NFL will have its own streaming service for the first time. This will give the league a new way to show exclusive games in the future. The National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball already sell subscriptions to their own streaming services that include out-of-market games.
Will the NFL run into issues with other competing streaming services?
The NFL’s streaming service doesn’t let people watch games on traditional TV or a connected TV, and it will still compete with the NFL programming on the networks. Sunday games on Fox and CBS, Sunday nights on NBC, Monday games on ESPN, and Thursday games on Amazon can be watched or listened to with NFL+. The league thinks that NFL+ will appeal to both “power users” who want everything the league has to offer and “snackers” who may not be able to watch a full game on TV because they are on the go. The NFL says that NFL+ is meant to “complement” the games that are already on TV.
What does this mean for the future of live television?
It’s not a given that Tech will be the best at live sports. Many of the most wanted rights are under contract with broadcasters for ten years or more. The leagues have mostly sold tertiary packages to streaming services because they are afraid to give them big properties like “Sunday Night Football” because traditional TV still has the most viewers. Leagues, who want to attract the widest possible fan base to maintain the long-term success of their sports, need to reach enormous audiences.
Even though Apple and Amazon have the potential to change things, they have not yet won a major rights package in the United States. That reminds me of 20 years ago, when sports leagues worried that moving games from network TV to cable would cause them to lose fans. But the change became normal over time. Traditional TV companies are making their own streaming-subscription services to compete with Apple and Amazon. To strengthen its USA channel and entice viewers to subscribe to Peacock, where it exclusively broadcast select English Premier League soccer matches, NBC Sports Network was shut down by NBCUniversal’s parent company, Comcast, last year. In a similar way, ESPN made a deal with the National Hockey League to show some games on its ESPN+ service, and CBS has shown big-name soccer games on Paramount+. But these services only have a small number of the more than 100 million cable customers that the media companies used to have. So, most sports programming is on traditional pay-TV channels, where leagues and advertisers can be sure to reach a bigger audience.
It’s hard when you’re competing with companies that aren’t playing by the same financial rules