Amazon in talks to live-stream tennis and rugby, wants to be ‘new-age MSO,’ says programmer

Serena Williams playing against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia at the Foro Italico on May 12, 2015, in Rome | Image: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Amazon is holding talks with broadcast-rights holders of internationally popular pro sports including, tennis and rugby, as it looks to potentially acquire some affordable live-streaming rights. 

According to Bloomberg, Amazon has talked to programmers including the Tennis Channel as it kicks the tires on possibly live-streaming events, such as the French Open, on its Amazon Prime Video SVOD service. 

“Amazon has been leaning forward on sports. They want to be a new age MSO,” Tennis Channel CEO Ken Solomon to Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw. Tennis Channel, which is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, has been in talks with Amazon for more than a year, Solomon added. 

Exclusive rights to major sporting events have been one of the last remaining live audience drivers. In the U.S., conglomerates including Disney, 21st Century Fox, Comcast/NBCUniversal, Time Warner Inc. and CBS Corp. are paying the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and the NCAA billions of dollars each year to lock up these rights. 

But programming for an international audience estimated by analysts to total around 63 million subscribers, Amazon has the luxury of being able to go after less-expensive sports leagues with broader global appeal, and still get the same impact on live viewing.

Indeed, offering live access to professional rugby would certainly offer Amazon a key differentiator against SVOD rival Netflix in markets like, say, Australia. 

As Bloomberg also noted, Amazon has ramped up its staff to develop its sports business. In May, the company quietly hired former Sports Illustrated executive James DeLorenzo to oversee its sports division. Also in May, ex-YouTube exec Charlie Neiman joined Amazon to head sports partnerships and business development. 

For more:
- read this Bloomberg report

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