Amazon.com stepped up its move into live sports programming Thursday by winning the rights to some soccer games from the hugely popular English Premier League.
Although the three-year pact is narrow in scope, the deal emphasizes Amazon’s ambition to seize a bigger role in the multibillion-dollar market for rights to live sporting events worldwide. The rights are limited to Amazon Prime customers in Britain and Ireland and cover only 20 matches per season.
Amazon last year streamed 10 Thursday night National Football League games, and that deal was renewed for this year and 2019. The Seattle-based company’s Prime service also carries some tennis programming.
The online retail giant’s deal with the soccer league “is a major step forward on the sports bidding rights for Amazon as we expect the company to aggressively bid on more professional and collegiate sports rights over the coming years,” Daniel Ives, head of technology research at GBH Insights, said in a note to clients.
Amazon’s Prime program, which costs $119 a year, offers a variety of services, including free shipping of products bought on Amazon.com, discounts at Amazon’s recently acquired Whole Foods Market Inc. and video streaming.
There are more than 100 million Amazon Prime members worldwide, including “millions of Prime members in the U.K.,” according to Amazon.
The bulk of the soccer league broadcasting rights were acquired by the established British services Sky and BT Sport, which already had been EPL partners. Financial terms of the Amazon deal were not disclosed.
“We welcome Amazon as an exciting new partner and we know Prime Video will provide an excellent service on which fans can consume the Premier League,” EPL Executive Chairman Richard Scudamore said in a statement.
Jay Marine, vice president of Prime Video in Europe, said in a statement that “we are always looking to add more value to Prime” and that the English Premier League “is the most watched sports league in the world.”
Amazon’s deal is the latest illustration of how the business of entertainment and sports broadcast rights, and the market for providing original programming, are being upended as traditional broadcasters are being challenged by huge digital firms such as Amazon, Netflix Inc. and Facebook Inc.
Leslie Moonves, chief executive of CBS Corp., has said the trend would continue with the future bidding for the NFL’s overall programming rights, which expire in 2022.
“Five years from now when that deal is up, obviously, the tech players are going to be part of it,” Moonves told an industry conference in February without identifying any companies by name. “There will be digital players who are part of it.”
Amazon’s “deep pockets, 100-million-plus Prime members and growing, and established streaming franchise makes Bezos & Co. a potential major disruptive force to future live sports rights,” Ives said, referring to Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos.
Amazon’s stock was down $9.97 at $1,686.12 a share in midday trading. Amazon’s total stock-market value is $820 billion, and the company’s revenues last year totaled $178 billion.
11:30 a.m.: This article was updated with CBS’ chief executive saying tech companies eventually would bid for more of the NFL’s programming rights.
This article was originally published at 9:45 a.m.