Jun 5, 2020 - Sports

Apple's hire of Amazon executive Jim DeLorenzo signals interest in live sports

Illustration of a whistle hanging from a digital cursor

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As cord-cutting becomes increasingly prevalent, live sports — one of the last bastions representing the age of cable TV — represent a major opportunity for streamers and tech giants to set themselves apart from the pack.

Driving the news: Apple has hired Amazon executive Jim DeLorenzo to head up sports for Apple TV, signaling its intent to lean more heavily into sports programming and potentially invest millions in live sports rights.

Big Tech:

  • Amazon: They hired DeLorenzo in March 2016, just before losing the NFL Thursday Night Football bidding war to Twitter. But they took back TNF in 2017, and just inked a massive, three-year deal that also includes exclusive rights to one Saturday NFL game each season.
  • Apple: Apple TV+ hasn't exactly made waves with its original programming, but they're far from giving up on that business, and the DeLorenzo hire suggests live sports could play a bigger role going forward.
  • Facebook: In 2017, Facebook struck a deal with MLB to stream one game each week. That was down to just six games last year, and the company has mostly removed itself from live sports bidding. Instead, Facebook is doubling down on its social media prowess with new products like Venue, a second-screen-focused app where fans can interact while watching live sports elsewhere.
  • Twitter: Following the loss of TNF rights, Twitter has focused more on deals that align with the platform's biggest strength: engagement. The NBA (iso-cam) and MLB (Twitter hitter) are all about fan interactivity, and various other media companies have similar deals to deliver short-form content. Twitter also signed a three-year deal with MLS in 2018 to stream at least 24 games per year, averaging over 600,000 viewers per game in 2019.

Go deeper: The sports streaming landscape, mapped

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