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Amazon Bullish on Live Sports Programming

Speaking on Amazon’s Feb. 3 fiscal call, CFO Brian Olsavsky said the Prime Video owner-operator’s foray into live sports would increase as the e-commerce behemoth looks for additional forms of content to make the Prime membership more valuable to consumers.

When Amazon last year inked an 11-year deal with the National Football League for exclusive rights to “Thursday Night Football,” the company was just expanding its streaming reach for live sports.

The streamer has professional tennis deals in place for live and on-demand distribution rights to the ATP World Tour in U.K. and Republic of Ireland, as well as the availability of Tennis TV on Amazon Channels in the U.S.

Recently, Prime Video inked a deal with Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees and the team’s co-owned YES Network to locally stream select games.

The company disclosed it spent upwards of $13 billion on video and music content in 2021, up 18% from $11 billion in 2020. The tallies put Prime Video nearly on par with industry heavyweight Netflix, which spent about $15 billion on content.

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Some media reports Feb. 3 incorrectly suggested Amazon raised the annual Prime membership fee by $20 (17%) in part to pay for “high-quality digital content,” i.e., sports rights. Olsavsky was quick to correct an analyst that sports played no singular role in platform’s first subscription price hike in four years.

“I didn’t want to leave you with the impression that we raised prices because [of] football,” Olsavsky told the analyst. “I just use that [sports as well as international sports] as an example of the great new content that we’ve been investing in … to make the Prime membership more valuable.”

Indeed, the Manchester United vs Arsenal Premier League soccer match in December was the most watched Premier League contest ever on Prime Video, with an estimated viewership of 4 million, according to the CFO.

“We’ve been working on getting sports properties that will be beneficial and valuable,” Olsavsky said. “We’re still probably early on in that.”

The executive said Amazon’s success last year with the Premier League post-Christmas (Boxing Day) soccer matches would expand going forward.

“That is actually pretty interesting [concept], and we continue to be a valuable partner for each other,” Olsavsky said.

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