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Amazon’s plan to kill cable TV may involve lots of balls

Amazon is looking to hammer a final nail into the coffin of traditional cable television by streaming live sports, according to a new report.

The Wall Street Journal has published an extensive report detailing Amazon’s supposed bid to introduce live sports broadcasting to its existing Amazon Video media-streaming platform. The retail giant has reportedly been in talks with sports organisations globally, including some of the USA’s biggest players: the National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Football League (NFL).

But one of the biggest challenges Amazon is facing is licensing rights, many of which are already tied up in complicated long-term contracts. For instance, the WSJ cites the NBA, whose deal with ESPN and TNT doesn’t expire until after 2024-2025 season. And the NFL’s contract with ESPN, CBS, Fox, and NBC will also run into early next decade.

Amazon has also had conversations with “soccer, lacrosse, and surfing leagues” according to one of the WSJ’s unnamed sources. For example, Amazon is said to have approached Univision Communications, asking if it could produce and package the Mexican soccer league games that it doesn’t currently air.

Football

It’s also not yet clear how Amazon plans to sell the live sports to its potential customers. The report says there is a “debate internally” about whether the live sports should be available for free with existing Prime subscriptions, which cost £79 per year. Alternatively, Amazon may peddle the sports content as a premium add-on subscription, according to a source.

“With at least some leagues, including the NBA, Amazon has floated the idea of creating an exclusive premium sports package available with its Amazon Prime program, though the details are unclear, the people said,” writes the WSJ. “Such a package could attract new members to the $99-a-year Prime program, as well as to a ‘skinny bundle’ of live online channels that Amazon is pursuing.”

It’s worth noting that Amazon doesn’t necessarily have to acquire live sports rights either; Amazon could simply license channels, just like traditional cable distributors do. But it’s still a challenging shift, as live sports are the last real bastion of security for traditional broadcasters. If online streaming services make significant headway in live sports, an area where they have historically struggled, then it could see many viewers cut the cable-cord for good.

Amazon hasn’t publicly commented on the WSJ report.

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