When Amazon secured exclusive UK rights to the US Open for the next five years back in April, it was clear the brains behind the £700 billion organisation learned something from their television counterparts: live sport is the driving force behind paid TV subscriptions.
However, the announcement was initially met with contempt from the public, who felt frustrated with the prospect of having to pay for yet another subscription package.
Fast forward two months and the world’s largest online retailer broke the seemingly strong ownership that Sky and BT have over the Premier League, with the introduction of 20 midweek games to be broadcast on Amazon Prime for the 2019/20 season. If Amazon succeeds in implementing and increasing its live sport coverage then essentially it has bridged the gap between being an additional service for TV to being a substitute for TV.
One positive thing to come out of the stream was the appreciation for the quality of the studio members. Catherine Whitaker returns to host coverage alongside former players such as Greg Rusedski, Daniela Hantuchova, Jimmy Connors, Jim Courier, Mark Petchey and Annabel Croft. In this regard, little is different to the Sky Sports coverage that many have become accustomed to.
Good that Amazon Prime are not holding back with their investment in the US Open coverage. An impressive line-up of pundits and commentators assembled and a strong on-site presence, including studio beside practice courts. Better than the Eleven Sports "portakabin"… #USOpen
— Stuart Fraser (@stu_fraser) August 27, 2018
After the likes of YouTube, DAZN and Optus all suffered issues during online services with their paying customers this past year, Amazon would have been wary of teething problems. These worries became genuine issues when fans were left disappointed that they were not able to watch Heather Watson, but rather two streams of Andy Murray.
Amazon Prime’s coverage includes five separate streams made up of a main channel for the studio, three show courts and a choice of the outside courts, with an additional two streams set to be introduced from Friday. The ability to only show one outside match at any given time meant that the scheduled Watson game could not be shown due to the men’s match not finishing in time.
So, devices Amazon Prime's US Open coverage doesn't work on:
Fire 7 Tablet
LG Smart TV
— Lee (@yelnats_eel) August 27, 2018
Viewers were also quick to jump on the poor quality of the coverage, with unsteady camera work and what appeared to be drone footage. The largest complaint of all seemed to centre around the lack of direction on the the Amazon Prime website itself. Put simply, Amazon’s subscribers are becoming increasingly disgruntled with under par user experience, which is something Amazon will need to address quickly if they’re to retain those customers who signed up purely to watch the US Open.
— Mario Rosenstock (@GiftGrubMario) August 27, 2018
On the back end of these issues, Amazon currently has a 1.4 out of 5 star rating with 82% of viewers giving it just one star. A report from The Guardian this morning showed that the number of complaints has risen so much that Amazon has temporarily prevented fans from writing reviews.
As this is the first major tennis tournament exclusively shown on a streaming service, Amazon officials may well be seeing their UK ownership of the tournament as a testing platform for the future. While the issues have come in their hundreds, it is simply inadequate when you compare it to the 8 million UK Prime members.