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Tech Giants Likely to Contend for Sports Broadcast Rights

Tech companies have been dipping into the sports content industry, but at what point could they become serious competition for major broadcast networks? An industry analyst predicts the next year and a half could be a crucial time for tech giants in their attempt to acquire sports broadcast rights.

“We believe the next 12 to 18 months is a pivotal window for platforms like Facebook and Amazon, among others, to aggressively secure the rights to various professional sports programming, especially as the Disney/ESPN launch of ESPN Plus over the coming year will be at the epicenter to {Disney CEO Bob Iger’s} master streaming initiatives and ‘raise the stakes’ for securing future sports content in our opinion,” said Daniel Ives, head of technology research at GBH Insights.

According to a previous Wall Street Journal report, Facebook plans to invest as much as $1 billion in live sports content this year alone. Recent deals to stream MLS and MLB games, along with a $600 million failed bid to acquire streaming rights to Indian Premier League cricket matches, shows Facebook’s desire spend on sports coverage.

Ives estimates Amazon could invest closer to $5 billion on sports content. They’ve already streamed NFL games, spending $50 million on last year’s Thursday Night Football package, which Jim DeLorenzo, head of Amazon Sports, believes was just a stepping stone to acquiring larger broadcast rights. “This was really our first step into distributing live sporting events at scale on a global basis,” DeLorenzo said.

As streaming becomes a more viable option for major sports broadcast rights agreements, Ives views Facebook and Amazon as serious contenders, Google and Apple as “wild cards,” with Snap and Twitter “tangentially in the mix.” Aggressively pursuing sports contracts in the next year and a half are important for tech giants to build a foundation allowing them to compete for larger deals as they expire in the future.

“We note in 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,” Ives said.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

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