On the two days after Christmas, Amazon Prime will once again take over the screening of the Premier League games, offering back to back games for ten solid hours on Boxing Day. This is their second set of games they will be screening this season, having shown the midweek round of matches a few weeks ago as part of the deal they won back in 2018 for approximately £90million for the right to screen 20 games per season.
Amazon, and their streaming rivals Netflix, have already raised the bar in football coverage with their fly on the wall documentaries such as All or Nothing (Manchester City), Take Us Home (Leeds United) and Inside Borussia (Borussia Dortmund) so it was a logical step to bid for the right to screen games as well. They have promised to revolutionise the viewing experience for fans as they move into live streaming for the first time.
The key to their success is being able to increase the number of subscribers to their Prime service. It is certainly a compelling offer, starting from just £7.99 per month that allows subscribers to access the live games on any device in addition to their whole catalogue of movies and TV shows, a music library of over 40 million songs and the ability to get next day delivery on hundreds of thousands of items from their online marketplace. Compared to the cost of accessing Sky Sports, it is a bargain but what does the future hold for them?
There was some criticism for their first round of games in early December, ranging from the quality of the studio pundits to being able to access the games, especially when viewers switched between different streams. However, there can be no denying that Amazon have the technology and deep pockets to develop their offering. I’m sure Netflix, Apple and Facebook will be looking on with interest at the reviews and more importantly, viewing figures, for these games with an eye on the next round of bidding for the TV packages due to start in 2020.
Whilst the thought of watching any one of the six 3pm games on Boxing Day may be appealing to many, especially for those games where tickets are scarce, for Non-League clubs who hope to see bumper crowds over the festive period, it is another reason for fans not to come to games. Many clubs rely on the big crowds they get from local derbies over Christmas and the money they spend in the ground for the rest of the season. With little or no public transport, many Premier League fans choose to go and support their local team but with every game being shown live on Boxing Day (plus Wolves v Man City on the 27th), how many may decide to stay at home in front of the TV?
Indirectly some of the £90million paid by Amazon will make its way down into the Non-League game through the likes of the Football Foundation and FA Facilities Fund but it flows very slowly and the criteria to access it is strenuous to say the least.