SportsPro managing director Nick Meacham offers his thoughts on how Jeff Bezos' ecommerce giant will make a lasting impact on all corners of the sports industry
In 2016, at the Code conference, Jeff Bezos delivered his famous quote: "When we win a Golden Globe, it helps us sell more shoes.” As Amazon continues its drive into the sports industry, it is clear he believes that thinking will have a similar effect.
With its ability to connect, engage and monetise audiences, it is obvious why Amazon is investing in sport but the ecommerce giant also has the tools to amplify the industry's efforts in all three of those areas.
Whether it is through initiatives directly targeting the sports industry, or new technologies being rolled out in the wider retail sector, here are seven ways in which Amazon could change the game.
1. Global Internet
Amazon is currently investing US$10 billion in rolling out satellites to provide a global broadband solution. This will unlock incredible opportunities for the global economy, not least sports and the ability for underserved countries to access live and digital content. The rate of growth of Amazon's potential audience, and the rights market for over-the-top (OTT) platforms globally, will skyrocket once connectivity is improved.
2. Amazon Go
Go allows customers to walk out of a store without going to a checkout, automatically charging them for whatever they walk out of the store with. Such technology has obvious implications for sports - speeding up of food and beverage sales at stadiums, for example. In what can still be an arcane process that has barely changed in practice since it was introduced, Go could deliver a huge increase in sales and ARPU for live sports venues. In addition, the ability to track all sales opens up opportunities to cross-promote and deliver personalised discounts and special offers on certain products, therefore increasing consumption.
3. Live broadcast experience
Amazon’s development of the 'watch party' solution, coupled with how it has developed the Twitch experience into the platform of choice for the younger generation, will drive a huge increase in connectivity and community whilst watching live sports. Studies have shown there is a huge appetite for ‘watch together’ experiences, especially in a post-pandemic era. Prime Video and Twitch will likely lead the way with these community-building experiences.
4. The new home of sports
Twitch is now ramping up the development of its sports offering, developing dedicated sets of channels for individual sports properties. The content on the platform can vary greatly from highlights packages and live matches to first-person content produced by athletes, and even athletes playing esports. Prime and Twitch are effectively looking to build a true place of community for sports fans - a shift that could see them become the home for a host of major sports properties in years to come.
5. Rights shopping spree
Both Twitch and Prime Video are increasing their acquisition of sports rights and have the potential to become the global leader in live sports over the next ten years. Alongside the existing portfolio of global and national deals they have in place with the likes of the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), Premier League and Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), Amazon has recently started adding regional deals in the US. Firstly, Amazon acquired a stake in New York's YES Network and will at some point start airing Yankees games. Now, Prime Video has become the local broadcast partner for Major League Soccer's (MLS) Seattle Sounders. In signalling its intent to go local, as well as global, with media rights acquisitions, Amazon is showing it will be opportunistic where it can find value.
6. Leading the interactive experience
Amazon already boasts a market leader with live content interactivity thanks to Xray, which allows users to look up everything from actors and reviews on movies, through to athlete profiles and data during a live sports broadcast. Echo, Amazon’s Alexa-powered smart speaker, is now in 30 per cent of US homes, and can deliver similar results to Xray all by the power of voice. These experiences are already industry-leading and with Amazon Web Services (AWS), the company’s cloud computing arm, working with a host of rights holders to deliver real time, next-gen data for sports fans, Amazon will be delivering live, innovative experiences that will be unrivalled by its competitors.
7. Direct commerce
Amazon’s ecosystem is such that it can deliver an ecommerce solution that enables users to buy merchandise, such as their favourite player’s jersey or shoes, in just a few clicks or just a few words said out loud, all whilst never leaving the broadcast. That capability has the potential to deliver an incredible surge in the monetisation of live sports, and could change the way rights are valued permanently.