Nov 27, 2018 - Business

Tech giants ramp up the live sports battle royale

Data: PwC Sports Outlook 2018; Chart: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Media rights are the biggest sector within the sports industry in North America, according to a new report from PwC. Amid a flurry of increased digital competition for rights, they are expected to be the fastest growing,

Between the lines: More digital streamers, including Big Tech companies and media conglomerates, are vying to win the rights to lucrative sporting events, many of which are up for renegotiation over the next few years.

  • CNBC reported last week that Amazon has tossed a bid into the ring for Disney's 22 regional sports networks. It comes amid a broader push by the tech giant to win live sports rights, like its Thursday night NFL streaming deal.
  • John Skipper, who resigned as head of ESPN late last year, is back and looking to build a new global sports media giant in the U.S. called DAZN. Last week DAZN announced a deal with Major League Baseball that will allow it to show live look-ins throughout its prime-time programming in the U.S.

Yes, but: As Bloomberg's Gerry Smith notes, "Sports is moving to the internet. But the internet still isn’t ready for sports."

  • Last week, "AT&T Inc. was forced to make a pay-per-view golf match between Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods free to watch on Friday after suffering a glitch processing customers’ online purchases."
  • "In August, Amazon had problems live streaming the U.S. Open for U.K. viewers, with fans complaining about poor picture quality and functionality.
  • "In July, YouTube’s TV service crashed while England and Croatia played in the World Cup semifinals."
  • "In February, some Hulu viewers got error messages during the final moments of the Super Bowl.

The bottom line: Digital streamers want to win sports rights to lure customers, but they're going to have to prove that their service will be a better live experience than linear television.

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What's next

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Why it matters: The rebound in viewership from previous two years will give the NFL higher leverage when negotiating new distribution deals with media partners.

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Stadiums are the new department stores

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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Why it matters: As the areas surrounding modern stadiums evolve from a handful of restaurants, bars and shops into entire "districts" with things like condos, hotels, offices, event spaces and fitness centers, sports teams have unlocked a new revenue stream: land.

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