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Streaming Wars: Live Sports Edition

Jul 26, 2022

The pandemic streaming boom appears to have come to an end; even Netflix recently experienced a massive loss of subscribers. Streaming platforms are now seeking to bolster their content with live sports.

One streaming giant, Amazon Prime Video, is branching into linear channels, news, live sports and continues to acquire more live-sports streaming rights. In March 2021, the National Football League (“NFL”) announced a $1 billion deal to exclusively partner with Amazon. Starting in the fall of 2022, Thursday Night Football will exclusively be streamed on Prime Video.

Amazon Prime Video is taking this opportunity to grow not only its offerings, but also its entire interface. Users will now find a more accessible design with six pages: Home, Store, Find, Live TV, Free with Ads, and MyStuff. The home screen will feature an easy-to-navigate “Top 10 Ranking” carousel, and subscribers will now be presented a narrower, more tailored viewing selection of available movies and shows.

Some streaming services are not new to the sports content game—Disney+ being one of these. For quite some time, users have already had access to bundles including ESPN+. Disney Media and Entertainment will launch an ad-supported tier by 2023, in the hopes of drawing more users at a lower price point. It also expects more advertising commitments for sports and streaming as they get closer to launch, having already hit $9 billion in upfront advertising sales.

Ads on Disney+ and ESPN + will be incorporated in between shows, movies and sporting events. Depending on the targeted customers’ purchase history and other factors, ads will be related to financial services, media, entertainment, travel and leisure.

Speaking of commitment, Apple TV took notice of the amount of soccer fans present in the United States. The original TV series, Ted Lasso, has proven to be a fan favorite – garnering Apple TV+'s biggest audience yet. Apple took this opportunity and solidified a 10-year contract with Major League Soccer (“MLS”) worth $2.5 billion beginning in 2023. MLS being on Apple TV will allow fans to view pregame and post-game activities, live match whip around and other behind-the-scenes content.

Clearly, $2.5 billion is a huge deal for MLS. Only a few months ago, MLS found itself in a challenging situation of negotiating and trying to sign a TV/streaming deal. It was rejected multiple times before Apple stepped in and ensured that at least for another decade MLS is not going anywhere. Even though Apple TV is a relatively small streaming service, it knows partnering with MLS will prove to be an asset as the sports industry continues to grow. Apple has the marketing, budget and exposure to help MLS succeed.

Streaming platforms are striving to remain relevant to sports fans around the world and want to provide them with the opportunity to cheer on their favorite teams. They realize that dedicated viewers are more drawn to a streaming service that includes their favorite sports, so the fight to offer live sports within subscription plans will continue for the foreseeable future.

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Richard Nachmias

Richard Nachmias is an Audit Partner and Partner-in-Charge of the firm's Sports and Entertainment Group. Rich has more than 25 years of experience providing services to companies in the media and technology industries.

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