Broadcast rights Ed Woodward Football Manchester United Ooyala Premier League Soccer Television

Will tech giants upset Sky and BT’s dominance of Premier League TV rights?

September 27, 2017

As the next Premier League rights deal approaches we will undoubtedly see increasing noise around the potential entry of digital players like Amazon, Facebook, Netflix and Apple into the Premier League TV rights auction.

We also saw these rumours at the last rights deal and, while nothing materialised three years ago, viewers have continued shifting towards online video making a potential entry more likely, though not inevitable, when the 2019-21 rights package is sold early next year.

Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, did little to dampen the fires of debate in regards to a potential bidding war when discussing the top-flight giant’s latest financial figures.

He said: “Absolutely I think they (Facebook and Amazon) will enter the mix and we would welcome the interest.

“We are going to see an increasing engagement from these organisations and it is going to be increasingly important to digitally engage with fans. We think we can be complimentary to partners like this.”

Of course, it is in Woodward’s interests that new parties enter the bidding war, an auction that is highly likely to be dominated by Sky and BT, and who better than tech giants with bottomless pockets?

Woodward’s comments could easily be seen as some sort of gamesmanship as the auction approaches. If we take the comments at face value there are a few questions that need answering. First and foremost are those around how these tech giants will recoup their costs.

Amazon would likely package the rights as part of their Prime Video offering, while Facebook would presumably offer them as ad-funded streams.

But we can probably discount Netflix and Apple as potential entrants; the streaming giant has shied away from sports rights in the past, while the hardware giant appears to be focusing on original drama.

The costs are likely to be large – Sky and BT are currently paying £11 million ($14.7 million) and £7.6 million ($10.2 million) per game respectively and have an established route to market. While these sums may be relative drops in the ocean for Amazon and Facebook, we must consider what role they play in their existing offerings.

Will football fans be willing to stump up a further £79 ($106) a year – on top of the £756 ($1014) they already pay for their Sky and BT Sport subscriptions – for the occasional Saturday lunchtime game? All remains to be seen. Bring on the next round!

Broadcast rights Ed Woodward Football Manchester United Ooyala Premier League Soccer Television