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Here’s How the Premier League Could Still Lure Amazon to Soccer

The Premier League is waiting for a late delivery from Amazon.com Inc.

Possible interest from Amazon offered the best chance at bigger proceeds for the auction of live U.K. rights through 2022 than the 5.1 billion pounds ($7.2 billion) secured last time, with Sky Plc and BT Group Plc signaling restraint ahead of the auction after years of soaring inflation. But when the broadcasters took the five best packages for only about 4.5 billion pounds last week, it appeared Amazon was sitting on the sidelines.

The league still has a shot with two remaining packages, which it says have multiple bidders interested in matches that would normally be seen as supplementary to the top rights. Tweaking those packages to add rights to replay other games soon after they’ve ended could woo the tech giant, said Mike Darcey, a former Sky chief operating officer.

“That would be quite a smart potential combination,” said Darcey, who has been involved in Premier League bidding on five occasions.

Adding the so-called near-live replay rights to one or both packages of 20 games each would let Amazon give its Prime subscribers in the U.K. a bigger and more regular taste of England’s top soccer tournament. It could add weekly commentary in order to claim it’s got a true U.K. soccer offering, as it builds out its Prime video service.

Sky currently holds the near-live rights — normally sold in a separate process — and could also be interested in bidding for them again.

Representatives for Amazon, Sky and the Premier League declined to comment.

The league might expect to attract about 360 million pounds for a 20-game package, bundled with near-live rights, according to estimates from Ampere Analysis. To cover that tab and break even in the U.K., Amazon would need another 1 million Prime subscribers in the country, according to Ampere.
Early Days

For Amazon, which has done deals for tennis and NFL football rights, the foray into sport is young. Still, the company had planned to bid on Premier League rights, a person familiar with the matter said last month. Leagues globally are embracing the entry of streaming services into sport as cable cord-cutting hits viewing figures in some places, threatening their biggest source of revenue.

While the Premier League has secured lower proceeds for the U.K. rights so far, it’s already set to match the total figure for domestic and global rights of roughly 8.4 billion pounds last time, due to increased revenues from overseas deals, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified as the figures are confidential. Anything the league gets from the last two U.K. packages would push the proceeds above last round, the people said.

As it stands, neither remaining Premier League package individually — nor both packages together — are sufficient for a new entrant to build a sport proposition around. Taken together, they would only provide eight live viewing opportunities in just four separate weeks throughout a 30-week season, because some matches are played simultaneously.
Digital Platform

Another alternative for the league with the remaining packages would be to ink deals with BT or Sky at higher prices. Sky is restricted from holding rights to more than 20 additional matches, however, due to competition rules.

The league could also opt not to sell them and instead stream matches onto its own digital platform, charging to watch. The lower-tier English Football League recently came to this arrangement for a number of matches in its latest agreement.

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