Amazon has secured a groundbreaking deal to show live Champions League soccer matches in the U.K., starting from 2024, European soccer governing body UEFA unveiled on Friday.
The deal, details of which had leaked ahead of the announcement, will see Amazon split U.K. rights to the top-rated European club tournament with current U.K. rightsholder BT Sport.
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BT Sport, which is due to combine in a joint venture with Warner Bros. Discovery’s sports network Eurosport later this year, will still retain the vast majority of games across the Champions League, Europa League and the third-tier Conference League tournaments run by UEFA.
Amazon’s deal will give the online giant one game a week, around 20 matches a season, across Europe’s premier competition.
The new deal kicks off in 2024 — when the Champions League tournament is set to grow from 32 to 36 teams under a new format — through to 2027.
Prime Video has secured the rights to exclusively broadcast the Tuesday night top-pick matches from the Champions League. Each fixture will always feature an English team during the group stages and, where they have qualified, through to the semifinals.
“The addition of UEFA Champions League football is a truly momentous moment for Prime Video in the U.K.,” said Alex Green, managing director, Prime Video Sport Europe.
The Champions League agreement is the biggest sports rights deal Amazon has made in the U.K. and will further secure its position as a major player in the live sports business. In March, the online giant struck an 11-year deal, valued at $1 billion annually, to stream live NFL football games in the U.S. It has a three-year contract to broadcast Champions League games live in Germany, a deal that kicked off last season. Amazon also holds Champions League rights for Italy.
Amazon signed its first major U.K. sports deal in 2018, inking an agreement to broadcast 20 live matches from domestic soccer division the Premier League.
The Champions League deal is a further sign of the enduring value of premium live sports in the battle between broadcasters and streamers for audience loyalty. Last month, Viacom18, a joint venture between Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, Paramount Global and James Murdoch-backed Bodhi Tree Systems, paid $2.6 billion (205 billion rupees) for streaming rights to India’s Premier League Cricket, while Disney shelled out $3 billion (235.75 billion rupees) to hold on to exclusive TV rights to the sport for the next five years.
The Champions League, an annual soccer tournament between Europe’s top-placed club sides, is among the most valuable sports rights in Europe. Last year’s final, between English team Chelsea and Manchester City, drew 8.7 million viewers across BT’s main digital channel and its free streaming YouTube channel.
British public broadcaster the BBC also secured rights to show highlights of Champions League matches on its popular Match of the Day program.
BT has been the exclusive U.K. broadcaster of the Champions League since 2015 after it beat out then-joint holders Sky and ITV with a $1.46 billion (£1.2 billion) bid, a record figure at the time.
Britain is UEFA’s largest market for Champions League rights, with media reports putting the value of those rights for the 2024-27 cycle at £1.4 billion-£1.5 billion ($1.7 billion-$1.8 billion). That figure covers the Champions League, the Europa League and the Conference League tournaments. Amazon and the BBC are reportedly shelling out upwards of £200 million ($242 million) for their Champions League rights, though all parties declined to give specific figures.
Paolo Pescatore, analyst at PP Foresight, called the new deal unveiled on Friday “a win for all parties.” He explained: “While BT Sport loses exclusivity, it provides long-term certainty going into the joint venture with Discovery, providing fans with more games and for less money.” He also highlighted: “More players means fragmentation, but this should not be a huge issue. Amazon is now establishing itself as a key provider of sports in the U.K. as it continues to steadily beef up its programming. This will help drive Prime subscriptions and sales even further with more live sport through the year.”
But Pescatore also noted: “UEFA has been able to increase the value of the rights by opening up the tender and packages to more players. This will not go down with fans if they’re forced to fork out more during these unprecedented times with the higher cost of living.” He added: “A surprising winner is BBC which will be looking to replicate the success of Match of The Day. More sport on free-to-air will be a winner by all viewers and makes premium European football more accessible.”
Meanwhile, “the biggest question mark is [sports streamer] DAZN and whether any interest was shown,” Pescatore said. “This will be a further blow to its own aspirations in the U.K. as some of these rights would have helped its precarious position, more so given the failed acquisition of BT Sport.”
Enders Analysis analyst Francois Godard suggested in a report before the deal was officially announced: “The BT Sport packages, even if less comprehensive than in the current cycle, will feature more fixtures, thanks to the expansion of the Champions League. We imagine the BT Sport bid is consistent with the February deal, under which Warner Bros. Discovery took a 50 percent stake in the broadcaster. In other words, we assume Warner is fully behind it.”
He also wrote: “The entrance of Amazon in the U.K. Champions League rights market is no surprise — the platform already broadcasts the competition in Germany and Italy and was a bidder at the French auction (won by Vivendi’s Canal+). The move is also consistent with Amazon’s habit of taking positions left empty by incumbents rather than challenging them in inflationary bids.”
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