How we consume our favourite sports has changed more in the last five years than it had in the previous 50. The power of the internet along with technology, which is developing faster than ever before means there are several platforms available to sports fans via various media methods. Yet, good old-fashioned television is still king, it seems.
Eleven Sports learned this the hard way about a year ago. Having brought up the UK rights to show Spanish LaLiga football along with Italy’s Serie A they could not strike a deal with a traditional carrier such as Sky Sports or BT Sport. This brought an end to Eleven Sports’ dream of being the home of top European football coverage in the UK. They couldn’t do it without the support of a mainstream station to ‘host’ them via consumers’ traditional set-top boxes.
The Eleven Sports deal gradually disintegrated. And this, after they had also signed up to show UFC live events in exclusively in Britain, too. The UFC contract ended up going back to BT Sport – the MMA organisation’s home of the last few years.
No matter how large a streaming platform is – it looks like, in this day-and-age, at least, that they still need to be easily accessible for consumers. That is, via the Sky TV box, the Virgin Media box or the BT box.
Just look at the deal the online behemoth Amazon has done for its first experiment with live Premier League (PL) football this season. Amazon – probably the biggest online market in the world right now – didn’t try to go it alone and just stream via laptops, online media players etc. No, they struck a deal with BT Sport.
Of course, Amazon Prime customers will have access to all 20 of the company’s live games in December (played over two gameweeks – early December and again on Boxing Day). However, in a brilliant move by Amazon, they have created the ‘Amazon Premier League Pass’ in collaboration with BT Sport. This means viewers can purchase these passes to watch Amazon’s PL coverage in December via their TV set-top box if they don’t want to view the games on laptops or other media platforms dedicated to streaming. It also means that Amazon’s coverage will be accessible in public settings such as pubs and clubs.
Therefore, many thousands of extra football fans who may not be signed up to Amazon Prime will get a taste of what their PL coverage will be like. If Amazon can knock it out of the park on the first go then they might well be looking at a huge upsurge in interest ahead of the next time they look to do something similar. If supporters see that Amazon take the matter seriously and invests significant time and funds into how it brings the game to them, then the next time an ‘Amazon Premier League Pass’ is available, the sales could be hugely increased.
Another market-leader in terms of sports streaming is DAZN. The US-based platform operates in several other countries outside of America, too. However, they know that traditional TV channels like Sky Sports and BT Sport still have a stranglehold on the UK market. Lessons were surely learned in the wake of Eleven Sports’ failed attempts in late 2018. DAZN’s focus has been primarily on boxing in the past but you can gradually see them testing the waters in relation to football coverage in other countries.
Earlier this season, football fans thought they were going to be treated to live LaLiga coverage on ITV’s free-to-air ITV4 station. That didn’t last, though. Premier Sports signed the rights to show Spanish football in the UK. As an already existing ‘linear’ channel and part of the Sky Sports Xtra package (along with Sky Sports and BT Sport channels), they knew that accessing the live content was not going to be an issue for LaLiga supporters.
Change happens faster than ever in the modern age of sports broadcasting. With ever-improving internet speeds, along with more reliable consoles and devices, we’re sure to see a more notable progression towards online streaming in the next few years. Yet, for now, TV is still the king of live sports broadcasting.