As Amazon Prime pick up Premier League football rights, the major issue for football fans in the UK has to be fragmentation.
This is a massive news story in one sense: Sky Sports and BT Sport are now no longer the only sports broadcasters in town, plus it shows that on-demand platforms like Amazon are a viable alternative not just for entertainment, films and documentaries, but for live sport, too.
And yet, the consequences of that are being seen in the fact that fans are now having to buy an extra subscription.
Sure, Amazon will only have access to 20 live games to show on their platform, and the reality is they’ll get to maximise even fewer of those matches. Given that their package will see them show just two rounds of midweek games – when all 20 teams will be slated to play at the same time – there’s not a whole lot fans without access will miss out on.
Amazon will be able to show all of those games simultaneously, and they might be able to hold one or two over for different times throughout the course of the week. But the likelihood is that scheduling will demand most of the midweek games be played on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
In the end, then, Amazon will likely be showing multiple games at the same time, many of which will be lost in the melee for fans who don’t follow a specific team.
The fragmentation argument, then, is a valid one but maybe not an overly pressing concern. Sky and BT, who will show those midweek games next season, will only lose out on perhaps two live games a season.
More worrying, though, is the precedent it sets and the promise it makes for the future. ‘Online streaming’ isn’t just something you do huddled around a laptop or a phone. Indeed, both Sky and BT are adept at providing online services themselves. But in an era where more and more companies are getting involved in providing on-demand services there’s just greater scope for even more fragmentation.
This deal has to be Amazon testing the Premier League on its platform with a view to snapping up more (and much better) rights next time. And if that happens, there could be real fragmentation to contend with.