Amazon scores winning result with Premier League coverage
Ivan Radford | On 08, Dec 2019
Amazon made TV history this week in the TV world by becoming the first streaming platform to show Premier League football live across the UK.
Premier League football has long been the exclusive territory of Sky and BT TV, with traditions anchored around the two pay-TV giants. Amazon, though, snapped up a batch of 20 fixtures for streaming this December, with 10 this week and 10 on Boxing Day. And if that was intended as a test to see whether the online firm could compete with the other sports players on the small screen, then Amazon’s team passed with flying colours.
By the end of the year, Amazon will have had more than 350 cameras in Premier League stadiums up and down the country, with more than 2,000 camera operators, editors, sound engineers, directors, mixers and producers, as well as more than 70 on-screen talent analysing, commentating and hosting its 35+ hours of football coverage.
It’s a big investment, and while Amazon played it safe with such things as placing the score in the usual top-left corner of the screen, that investment paid off in lots of tiny differences that added up to something striking.
First up was the ability to access team line-ups and real-time stats throughout the match on the right-hand side of the screen, without interrupting the streaming of the game itself. Indeed, Amazon’s interface for the whole of its coverage was intuitive and easy to navigate – an impressive feat given the far-from-intuitive interface on the Amazon website. Highlights, too, were easily viewable after incidents occurred during the match, smoothly reverting to the live stream once the clip had completed. Throw in the ability to rewind the stream by 10 seconds, as with all Prime Video content, and the result was a simple, satisfying way to experience live sports.
The picture quality was also strong, with the option to stream some matches in 4K, and no notable buffering or crashing – a notable challenge for live-streaming sports in high-definition, as demonstrated by BBC iPlayer’s experiments with 4K World Cup streaming. Despite six streams all going at once on Wednesday evening, though, there were no disastrous outages, and while the odd social media comment complained about their streaming experience, our Twitter survey of approximately 100 users found the majority had no problems. With the 4K available at no extra cost, the challenge to conventional broadcasters is a potentially significant one.
The other cornerstone of football coverage are the people in front of the camera. In Gabby Logan and Eilidh Barbour, as well as veteran Jim Rosenthal, Amazon had a safe pair of hands for its broadcasts, and Jon Champion and Ally McCoist – reuniting after the World Cup – proved an entertaining double-act in the commentary box. Best of all, though, was Amazon’s masterstroke to swerve the inevitable hit-and-miss nature of sports pundits by letting viewers choose to tune them out altogether: the option to watch a match without any commentary and just the stadium atmosphere was an inspired feature that you can expect other broadcasters to start offering soon.
Amazon Prime Video users also don’t have to worry about missing out on the action, with each match available to stream on-demand for a week after they take place, alongside a 3-minute highlights package, a 30-minute highlights package and, in a largely successful venture, Amazon’s own Goals Centre – hosted by Steve Bower – that provided all of the scores and goals from football across the UK. You can expect that to be a major feature of Amazon’s Boxing Day coverage, when it will stream nine Premier League matches, including Tottenham vs Brighton at 12.30pm and Leicester and Liverpool at 8pm.
While the experience in living rooms was an undoubted clean sheet, though, Amazon will be most closely paying attention to the numbers. It has already said it has seen the record broken for the number of sign-ups this week – once on Tuesday and again on Wednesday – with millions streaming the matches. With Boxing Day likely to repeat the same performance, don’t be surprised if Amazon will step up its competition for further Premier League streaming in the future. Sky paid £3.58 billion for its share of football games in its current three-year deal, compared to BT’s £975 million. With Amazon spending billions a year on programming, Amazon could easily siphon of some of its large budget to snap up some more packages – indeed, Amazon Prime Video has already outbid Sky for ATP tennis rights. While in the short-term that may mean football fans needing to subscriber to multiple services, with both Amazon Prime Video and NOW offering contract-free ways to stream football, this could be the start of a revolution in the way sport is watched in the UK.
From pricing and devices to times and fixtures, click here for everything you need to know about the Premier League on Amazon Prime Video.