Never an US Open was so important for media
Aug 27, 2018
Never before has the US Open faced such media significance, with Amazon's entry into the sports broadcasting market causing disruption and raising questions about sports rights and the future of TV networks.
This year, the US Open, one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments, will not be measured by the skills of the most talented players in the world. Instead, all eyes will be behind the camera - or rather, the servers - on the potential major disruptor that has caused havoc in many areas: Amazon.
After sowing the seeds of destruction in the brick-and-mortar retail, video, and other sectors, Jeff Bezos's company is taking its risks into the highly competitive niche of sports broadcasting, as Guardian Media reported last Saturday. Although the deal is being watched closely by major sports networks, the venture has a more significant effect. Amazon’s reach makes one wonder how sports rights will address the markets now that the big players don’t depend on national licenses to broadcast.
Major TV networks like ESPN, Sky, and Fox Sports' stake in the game was always tied to their physical presence in the markets. Now, other than the muscle (including the leverage they have in marketing and promotional terms) they’ve acquired in the last decades is the only criteria that allow them to be in the business.
If competitors are concerned with having another player to push TV rights prices up, they should think twice. It is the least of their problems. Amazon’s real threat lies in the fact that they can offer franchises, leagues, and clubs more than money - they can offer partnerships. Amazon’s robust infrastructure will enable the owners of the show to sell the whole cake instead of just a piece. Streaming on this scale is a tough task (as Fox and even YouTube can confirm), but if there is someone able to try, it’s the e-commerce titan. Google and possibly Netflix will also monitor Amazon’s experience closely, as likely candidates for future enterprises.
This giant’s game will unfold quickly as TV rights contracts are no longer signed into the far future, as holders know that the following deal is always bigger. However, there are other aspects to pay attention to. Is there any sense in blocking streams geographically, or is it just clutter inherited from previous media business models? Is there still room for intermediaries, or will the producers adopt in-house solutions to have all the profit? And can audiences expect to have lower prices and fairer coverages than the premium pay-per-view insanely expensive packages?