Amazon Prime Video Strikes Out in Pandemic Shortened MLB Season

Lost in the euphoria of Major League Baseball’s July 23 return during the coronavirus pandemic: Amazon Prime Video’s scuttled attempt to stream select New York Yankees games — a first for the e-commerce behemoth.

When Amazon became part owner of the Yankees’ YES regional cable network, it earned rights to stream 21 games, including three against the Boston Red Sox. With the MLB shortening the season to 60 games from the traditional 162, a provision in the revised schedule prohibits third-party streaming of any local TV game broadcasts — a situation that also impacts Hulu’s agreement with Chicago Cubs’ Marquee Sports Network.

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Of the games Amazon could stream, YES Network chose to control all of them rather than simulcast with Prime Video

“Given the unique circumstances surrounding this season, YES Network will televise all New York Yankees games not airing on the national networks,” Amazon said in a statement. “We’ll evaluate our plans at the conclusion of this season.”

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Indeed, Amazon could follow Google-owned YouTube TV, which in February announced it would no longer carry Fox Regional Sports Networks, which included YES Network.

In a post on Twitter at the time, YouTube said it acquired rights from Sinclair Broadcasting to simulcast select games to Prime members.

“Despite our best efforts, we’ve been unable to reach an agreement with Sinclair,” said YouTube. “As a result, we will no longer offer Fox Regional Sports Networks, including YES Network,” YouTube said in a tweet.

In a subsequent tweet, the streamer said it didn’t take the decision “lightly,” arguing the impasse was largely a reflection of the rising cost of sports content.

“You may have noticed several other TV services have also decided to remove Fox Regional Sports Networks from their lineups,” YouTube said. 


Amazon Partners With Sinclair to Buy Stake in Yankees’ YES Network

Amazon Aug. 29 quietly teamed up with Sinclair Broadcast Co., private equity groups and The New York Yankees to acquire the latter’s flagship Yankees Entertainment and Sports (YES) Network for $3.47 billion from The Walt Disney Co.

The Yankees previously owned 20% of the regional sports TV network, which broadcasts the Yankees (MLB), Brooklyn Nets (NBA), New York City FC (MLS) and the New York Liberty (WNBA).

Disney acquired majority ownership of YES with its $71 billion acquisition of 20th Century Fox. Since the acquisition, Disney has sought to sell-off Fox’s RSNs to pay down debt and focus on film and over-the-top video.

The Yankees will own 26% of the new joint venture, followed by Sinclair (20%) and Amazon (15%), with private equity groups controlling the other 39%.

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For Amazon, the deal furthers the ecommerce behemoth’s interest in live sports, which currently includes Thursday Night Football broadcasts, select MLB games and Premier League  soccer in the U.K., among others.

In a press conference, Yankees president Randy Levine said the combination of Amazon and Sinclair provided a “dream team” of investors.

“We believe we’re going to take it to the next level,” Levine told Bloomberg.