The Exploding Cost of Streaming Live Sports


In the past 25 years the cost of broadcast rights for English Premier League soccer has surged thirtyfold as deep-pocketed media companies have grown to depend on live sports to win subscribers and keep them from defecting to online rivals. Next year an even richer bunch—those same internet giants that are wooing TV viewers—will likely show up at rights auctions, pushing prices even higher. “Live sports attracts a passionate fan base,” Greg Hart, video chief at Amazon.com Inc., said in August after signing a deal to offer Association of Tennis Professionals matches on Prime Video.

The biggest prize will be the Premier League auction this winter. Since the league’s inception in 1992, pay-TV broadcasters have bid up prices dramatically, with Sky Plc and BT Group agreeing to lay out a combined £1.7 billion ($2.2 billion) a year at the last auction, in 2015, up from £1.1 billion in 2012. The top leagues in Spain and France will also be up for grabs, and the U.S. National Football League will sell streaming rights for its games. Tech giants “are going to become serious players” in sports, says John Enser, an attorney at CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang who has helped negotiate rights deals.



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