Amazon says its foray into live-streaming Premier League soccer matches in the United Kingdom has resulted in record sign-ups with the e-commerce behemoth.
Prime Video streamed 10 matches between Dec. 4-6 with an army of cameras, operators, sound engineers and on-screen talent to analyze the action.
Amazon said it set a U.K. record for Prime membership sign-ups on Dec. 4, which was then broken again on Dec. 6. Amazon does not disclose Prime membership numbers. Media reports suggest Amazon has 15 million members in the U.K. since launching in 2007.
“We’re delighted that millions of football fans enjoyed watching Amazon’s first ever round of Premier League matches on Prime Video,” Alex Green, managing director of Prime Video Sport Europe, said in a statement.
Green said the matches — similar to IMDb TV and Prime Video content — featured in-program special features such as live stats, ‘X-Ray’ highlights, in addition to commentary-free option.
Amazon’s next Premier League action is a nine-game slate on Dec. 26.
In the aftermath of Apple’s decision to launch an enhanced subscription streaming video service through more than 1 billion Apple iOS connections globally, U.K. pay-TV operator ITV contends the market for British-themed SVOD service BritBox in the region is not mute.
The SVOD, launched two years ago in the United States as a $6.99 standalone service, is a joint venture of BBC Studios and ITV featuring current and past programming seasons from the BBC and ITV.
Speaking this week to the Broadcasting Press Guild in London, Carolyn McCall, CEO of ITV, said BritBox would fill a niche programming need when expanded across the Atlantic.
“It’s not Starz, it’s not Showtime, it’s not HBO. It’s not all about stuff you’re going to get on Sky and on the Web,” McCall said, as reported by Advanced-Television.
She said the proposed U.K. service, which has more than 500,000 subs in the U.S., wasn’t “too late” in the rapidly crowding over-the-top ecosystem, which includes U.K. mainstays Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
“It’s distinctively British-originated content,” McCall said. “It’s highly differentiated and BritBox will allow viewers to come to one place both to get the past: archive content curated in an interested and creative way; the present: because the window will be catch-up and then to BritBox, and then we will originate new content and that will be distinctively British.”
Indeed, she said BritBox U.K. would offer content specific to the region.
“The British product is not intended to roll out to the U.S.,” McCall said,
Viacom International Media Networks has expressed interest in joining the venture through its Channel 5 public service broadcasting subsidiary.
“I know there are different views about the need for it, but fundamentally, in the U.K. there’s a huge appetite for British programming,” Dan Fahy, VP, commercial and content distribution, VIMN, told the Connected TV World Summit 2019.
McCall confirmed discussions with VIMN as well as other public service broadcasters’ interest in the BritBox expansion.
“We’ve been having conversations with them for some time, so more to come,” she said.
Comcast continues forge a business strategy in the United States melding ad-supported digital distribution with legacy pay-TV. Across the Atlantic, the media company has become a major over-the-top video player in the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy.
The cabler’s $39 billion acquisition of satellite TV operator Sky included Now TV, the 7-year-old telecom with operations in the U.K., Ireland and Italy. Now TV provides standalone online TV, high-speed Internet and landline telephone services.
Now TV, which was one of Roku’s first OEM clients for streaming media devices, including USB stick technology, is the third-largest OTT video service in the U.K. behind market leader Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, according to Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB).
Through the third quarter (ended Sept. 30, 2018), more than 11.6 million homes in the U.K. had subscriptions to Netflix, Prime Video or Now TV – an increase of 22% from the previous-year period, according to BARB.
The research firm said Now TV ended the period with 5.7% household penetration and 7% million usage among consumers. That compared to 17.2% households (21% consumers) for Prime Video and 34.1% households (49.3%) for Netflix.
Now TV use grew 12.1% among households (11.6% among consumers), compared to 27.7% household (25%) growth for Prime Video; and 29.6% household (27.7% consumer) for Netflix.
Netflix continues to spearhead OTT video use, adding 2.2 million homes in Q3, while Prime Video and Now TV added more than 1 million homes and just under 200,000 households, respectively. BARB said the number of homes with two or more OTT services increased 40% from 2.8 million to just under 4 million in the past year.
Comcast says the addition of Sky (and Now TV) expanded the media company’s direct-consumer relationships to more than 54 million across the U.S. and Europe.
Steve Burke, CEO of NBC Universal, says Comcast’s pending AVOD service would incorporate Now TV technology and represents a good alternative for consumers not tethered to pay-TV/SVOD, while posing less of a risk in start-up costs.
“We think this approach has a much better chance to get scale quickly,” Burke said on the fiscal call.
Amazon has added anime service FunimationNow to its line-up of Prime Video Channels in the United Kingdom, becoming the first Sony Pictures Television service to launch on Prime Video there.
For a subscription fee of £4.99 per month with a seven-day free trial, Prime members who subscribe to FunimationNow have access to hundreds of new and classic anime shows and movies ad-free, with English subtitles and dubbing, according to Amazon Prime Video U.K.
At launch FunimationNow will bring Prime members anime shows such as “My Hero Academia,” “Attack on Titan,” “Black Clover,” “Overlord” and “Assassination Classroom.” New anime releases coming this autumn include “That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime,” “SSSS Gridman” and the final season of “Fairy Tail.”
Customers who subscribe to FunimationNow will also soon be getting access to new shows with English subtitles the day after they air in Japan, with English dubbed versions available a couple of weeks later, according to Amazon Prime Video U.K.
“It’s great that we can now offer U.K. Prime members access to popular anime shows with the addition of Sony’s FunimationNow on Prime Video Channels,” said Alex Green, European MD of channels and sport at Amazon Prime Video. “FunimationNow adds an incredible line up of anime to the wide selection of entertainment we offer customers on Prime Video in the U.K.”
“We are pleased to be working with Amazon to offer FunimationNow as part of their Prime Video Channels line-up,” said Gen Fukunaga, president and CEO at Funimation. “This will further expand our global footprint and enables us to bring the best in anime to many more fans in the U.K.”
FunimationNow joins more than 70 channels available on Prime Video Channels in the United Kingdom, including live and on-demand entertainment and sports, available as individual subscriptions.
Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom has licensed exclusive access to two new series from The Walt Disney Co. Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
The series include Marvel’s “Cloak & Dagger” and “The Crossing,” – the latter sci-fi episodic launching on ABC TV in the United States on April 2 and on Prime Video U.K. on April 3.
“Cloak & Dagger,” features Olivia Holt and Aubrey Joseph as Tandy Bowen (Dagger) and Tyrone Johnson (Cloak), two teenagers who acquire superpowers and form a romantic relationship. The series bows domestically on Freeform (formerly Disney Family) on June 7 and on Prime Video U.K. on June 8.
“The Crossing” is about refugees from a war-torn country (the U.S.) in the future coming to an American fishing town in the present. While the government sets to work trying to untangle the truth behind the ominous migration, the fact that the lives of those involved will never again be the same seems to be the only thing that no one can deny.
“This marks another step forward in bringing best-in-class TV shows to Prime Video customers in Europe,” Jay Marine, VP Prime Video EU, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to be bringing Marvel’s next hugely anticipated TV series exclusively to Prime Video and we look forward to hearing the reaction from Marvel fans and newcomers.”
Last month, Prime Video U.K. secured exclusive access to ABC’s “American Idol” two days after the show’s domestic broadcast. This season’s music talent competition features guest judges Katy Perry, Lionel Ritchie and Luke Bryan.