Apple TV+, Prime Video: will the GAFAMs kill sport on TV?

It was one of the shock announcements of this month of June 2022. Apple just signed an MLS broadcast deal, the biggest soccer championship in the United States, for an amount of 2.5 billion dollars. From 2023 and until 2032, the American public will therefore have to subscribe to the Apple TV+ offer to watch the matches previously broadcast on a cable channel.

Apple thinks “the ideal partner to further accelerate the growth of MLS”. This operation follows Apple’s first step into the world of sport on TV. Apple had already got its hands on the broadcast of a baseball game major every Friday night. And it’s a safe bet that the giant won’t stop there and will certainly try to grab a few broadcast slots for NFL (US football), NBA (basketball) and NHL (ice hockey) matches.

Amazon, a pioneer in sports rights

© Unsplash / Sandro Schuh

Before Apple, Amazon had shown the way. In France, the American won the rights to Ligue 1 football, the most popular sport in Europe and South America. Access to matches is reserved for customers who have subscribed to an offer at 12.99 euros per month, in addition to the Amazon Prime subscription (5.99 euros per month or 49 euros per year).

Amazon also scooped up the rights to broadcast of the night match of the Roland Garros tennis tournament. These two major events, formerly in the hands of public channels or French players (excluding Bein Sport), are now reserved for subscribers. What raise some concerns among market players, but also to arouse controversy among viewers.

Who does not jump is not GAFAM

roland garros nadal djoko

© Prime Video Sport / Presse-citron.net

The Nadal-Djokovic match at the Roland Garros tournament is a typical example of this transformation of the audiovisual industry. This summit meeting was scheduled during the night session, in the first part of the evening. Amazon therefore held the broadcasting rights for this match, as well as a few other matches in co-broadcast with France Télévisions.

A scandal for many viewers and market players. “This decision shocks me deeply, commented at Figaro Delphine Ernotte, president of France Télévisions. I find it extremely shocking to favor an American player like Amazon to the detriment of public service, especially on an event financed in whole or in part by public money.she denounced.

Marion Bartoli, consultant for Amazon Prime Video, recalled the terms of the contract linking the FFT to Amazon. “Amazon has signed a contract, where it is stipulated that the evening game will be the best game of the season”she explained on Europe 1. It is logical that the tournament respects its commitments (…) It was totally logical that Prime Video had this match”.

To calm things down, Amazon Prime had decided to broadcast the match in the clear. But the problem is still not solved.

Sport on TV soon in the hands of GAFAM?

TV Philips 70PUS8546

© Philips

If the controversy is understandable, it is necessary to replace the TV broadcasting of the most popular sports in an industry. And at a time when viewers want better image quality, broadcasts without commercials, outside working hours, federations must find other funding.

When signing the Roland Garros broadcasting contract, the FFT specified that the arrival of a new broadcaster would increase the amount of duties by 25%while an edition of Roland Garros is trading around 20 million euros.

These few additional millions, the FFT used them to supervise the production of images, work formerly managed directly by France TV. At the same time, the public group was able to expand its broadcast times with matches in the morning either “40% more tennis in the clear”. These few million will also be used to renovate the facilities of the courts.

For Ligue 1, it’s another matter. The broadcasting of matches on Amazon is only a consequence of the auction boom during negotiations with the LFP. After the Mediapro fiasco (Telefoot channel), the LFP launched a new call for tenders. Canal+ and Amazon emerged big winners with respectively 332 million euros for the seasons from 2021 to 2024 for the first, and 250 million euros annually for the second for the broadcasting of most Ligue 1 matches.

If the amount of the bids does not equal the billion released by Mediapro, it remains considerable. Also, in 2022, who other than the GAFAMs has enough resources to come and play elbows during the auctions?

Recall that in 2022, Apple and Amazon are among the world’s most highly valued companies. HASpple crossed the $3 trillion market capitalization mark at the beginning of the year. At the same time, Amazon crossed the 1,700 billion dollar mark.

It is therefore difficult to imagine public channels or national private groups competing with these monsters. Also, it seems written that sport on TV will in the future be broadcast on streaming platforms of these digital giants, for a monthly subscription.

The beauty of sports…

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