Amazon, Facebook will disrupt live sports streaming this year, says research


Armed with multi-billion-dollar video content plans, tech giants are set to take the competition to traditional sports broadcasters. India, too, could witness some action.

The battle for live sports streaming seems to have begun. Tech behemoths Amazon and Facebook are expected to be forerunners in the game, while Google and Apple could be “wild cards”.

American market research firm GBH Insights in a recent report said the next 12 to 18 months would be a “pivotal window” for these tech giants to secure the rights of major sporting leagues and events the world over.

Jeff Bezos, Founder & CEO, Amazon

Amazon, which is a big player in video-streaming through its Prime Video service, could lead the race, while Facebook, which rolled out a separate "Watch" tab last year to focus on video content, is stepping up its game as well.

Daniel Ives, Head of Technology Research at GBH Insight, stated:

“We note 2021, the year when the NFL, MLB and NHL media rights deals mostly end, will be the first major opportunity for Amazon, Facebook, and other major tech streaming platforms to potentially bid on some of these rights versus the likes of traditional entrenched media/cable players.”

Facebook is keen on original programming, and is expected to spend over $1 billion on it in 2018. Ives said, “We believe original content programming spend could approach between $1 billion to $1.5 billion over the next year for Facebook with a sizeable portion of this dedicated to live sports programming rights for various NCAA, MLB, potentially NFL events, and other international events.”

Amazon, meanwhile, could spend over $5 billion in content for Prime Video, according to GBH Insights. A chunk of this would be spent on acquiring sports rights, given many prime sporting properties are up for renewal.

GBH states, “With Amazon planning to spend $5 billion+ on content in 2018 based on our estimate, we believe the company’s deep pockets, 90 million Prime members and growing, and established streaming franchise makes it a potential major disruptive force to future live sports rights.”

Amazon has earlier streamed some NFL games in the US, and is likely to bid for the uber-popular English Premier League (EPL) too.

In India, meanwhile, both Facebook and Amazon were in the running for securing digital rights of the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL), but lost out to Star India, which paid an astronomical Rs 16,347 crore for a five-year deal with the BCCI. But, given Amazon’s and Facebook’s vast user base in the country, it is likely that they will keep a tab on future sporting events.

Apple is also creating original content for its Apple Music service. The iPhone-maker is projected to spend over $4.2 billion on original content by 2022. GBH reckons Apple and Google could be “wild cards” in live sports-streaming. Other social networks like Snap and Twitter could stream one-off games too, and remain “tangentially in the mix”.