Tech Platforms No Longer Competing to Stream Live Sports

In 2017, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube went head to head for rights to stream NFL football games on Thursdays on their respective platforms, a battle many thought was starting a new arena in the streaming world. However, it seems this was merely a fluke as no other such race has happened in the streaming of sports since then.

When rights to showcase the Premier League matches in the U.K. were on the table in 2018, many thought there would be big money in store for the leagues biggest teams, according to Digiday. However, the hype proved to be just that as Amazon and Facebook cut deals for significantly lower than expected.

Amazon secured rights to show 20 Premier League games for three seasons in the U.K. for £90 million ($116 million), while Facebook spent £200 million ($259 million) to show all 380 matches per seasons from 2019 to 2022 in Southeast Asia. British broadcaster, Sky, on the other hand, paid an astounding £4.5 billion ($5.8 billion) to show most Premier League matches over three seasons in 2018.

“There’s no shortage of sports content across social networks, but the behavioral data shows consumption tends to be in a shallow way. They don’t lend themselves well to long-form content consumption,” Phil Stephan, director at sports marketing agency Two Circles told Digiday. “Users don’t engage with content for longer than a few minutes, and this will be a hard behavior to break if they look to push long-form live content on their platforms.”

The strategy for these social networks is to work with broadcasters, instead of competing with them. Facebook for example, inked a deal with Fox Sports to create exclusive content for Facebook Watch, while Twitter has announced deals to show sports footage from Univision, ESPN, CBC Sports and Eurosport, instead of buying the rights themselves.

The lull in streaming sports can be attributed to the fact that tech platforms don’t get a big return on their investments, Digiday reported. In order to cash-out on these live events, these platforms need to be able to sell a lot of ads during halftime in-between overs, sets or rounds depending on the sport, which can be difficult as a lot of major sports tend to be country-specific.