Amazon’s $10 billion NFL TV deal is Big Tech’s first move into Big Sports

It’s lastly occurred. An enormous tech firm is paying actually massive {dollars} for unique rights to indicate big-time sports activities: Amazon is paying a reported $10 billion over 10 years to indicate NFL video games on Thursday nights.
However Amazon’s big deal — by far the most important transfer by a tech firm into dwell sports activities — additionally illustrates how intently intertwined big-time sports activities is with conventional TV.
That’s as a result of the remainder of the offers the NFL formally introduced right this moment look a complete lot just like the offers the NFL has completed for years: The overwhelming majority of its video games will run on the standard TV networks owned by Fox, Disney, ViacomCBS, and NBCUniversal. That’s: Whereas we’ve been watching viewing habits change through the years — fairly slowly at first after which in a short time, as conventional TV rankings have plummeted — each the NFL and the massive TV networks need to proceed enterprise as regular.
And there are good causes for that stasis — or symbiosis. TV viewing has been declining for years, however NFL video games stay the most well-liked programming on TV, by a protracted shot. Seven of the highest 10 reveals on TV in 2020 had been NFL video games. If the TV networks don’t have professional soccer, their decline will get very steep, in a short time.
The NFL, in the meantime, is betting that despite the fact that a few of its viewers are leaving for the likes of Xbox and TikTok, its finest probability to get essentially the most eyeballs on its video games is by retaining them on old style TV.
It’s price noting that the entire new offers enable the TV guys to additionally put the video games on their streaming platforms, like NBCUniversal’s Peacock and Disney’s ESPN+. However at their coronary heart, these are very a lot TV offers, not digital offers.
The Amazon deal, in the meantime, actually is a digital deal. In contrast to different strikes Amazon (and Twitter earlier than it) has made to indicate NFL video games, it is a dedication to indicate 15 video games a season, solely for Amazon Prime subscribers in america. Beforehand, Amazon has merely had streaming rights to video games that had been already broadcast on conventional TV networks like Fox and CBS. (The NFL notes that individuals who dwell in every of the crew’s residence markets will nonetheless be capable to watch the video games on conventional TV with out utilizing Amazon Prime.)
However a number of media observers have for years been assuming that massive tech firms could be muscling into sports activities. It’s fascinating that it’s solely occurred now — and that it is probably not taking place once more, in any vital means — for a very long time. The opposite TV offers the NFL introduced on Thursday will go for 11 years, which means there’s no means for a Google or an Apple to get into this once more, and there aren’t another big-time sports activities rights out there for a while. (The one wrinkle right here is the Sunday Ticket bundle, which provides subscribers entry to each sport within the league, and is at present owned by AT&T’s DirecTV; that deal comes up in a pair years and will undoubtedly be out there for a tech participant.)
However greater than that, it’s not a foregone conclusion that the remainder of massive tech thinks it must be bidding on sports activities offers, interval.
Just some years in the past, Fb bid $600 million in an unsuccessful effort to get the rights to Indian cricket matches, and later picked up rights to indicate some professional soccer video games in Latin America; it was reportedly prepared to spend “billions” for different sports activities rights.
However this month, Fb introduced that it wasn’t making an attempt to get the rights to NFL video games — and in reality didn’t need to spend cash on any sports activities rights in any respect. As a substitute, it recommended in an open letter to sports activities executives, Fb want to present video games at no cost.
No takers, thus far. And why would they? If the massive TV guys are going to maintain paying massive cash for giant sports activities, the sports activities guys will preserve taking their checks. Now they’re simply including Amazon’s $10 billion to their pile.

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