Tuesday night was a historic moment in football history. For the first time, as part of a 20-games-a-season three-year contract, a Premier League match streamed live on Amazon Prime Video.
Ever since Amazon won the rights for an undisclosed sum, there’s been a lot of speculation as to how it would pan out. It generally went off without any major hitches from a tech perspective, and overall the response from fans was positive.
However, what was fascinating was the glimpse of where Amazon might be able to take its live coverage in the future. Not just in terms of the viewing experience for fans, but also the advertising and sponsorship opportunities for brands.
Playing it safe
From a content perspective, we didn’t see anything particularly innovative as Man City took on Burnley. Amazon’s approach reflected that of the established broadcasters, it played it safe with trusted talent and formats aplenty.
Like BT and Sky, the coverage included live ‘roving’ social reporting, bespoke content for all consumer touchpoints, and a standard studio setup. All in all, your typical event coverage. Given the context, playing it safe is probably the right call given the febrile audience they are working with. Solid, but unspectacular.
A mobile viewing experience
Delving more into the digital experience is where it starts to get interesting. Viewers had the option of watching the game from the start or live; a small but worthwhile on-demand option. However, as we know, football and sport generally are less likely to be time-shifted. The live experience should always dominate.
Amazon has recognised this and focused on a shift that is more significant - the ‘place’ shift. Notably, mobile. The Amazon Prime Video app team has clearly considered the vertical experience, and look to have taken inspiration from the Twitter ‘Explore’ tab within this. The stream was pinned to the top of the Prime Video page, utilising the space underneath with three separate tabs below - stats, highlights, and lineups.
This is a hugely engaging format, bringing some (but not all) of the benefits of the second screen experience into a single screen experience.
Hopefully, Amazon will push this even further and provide an option for users to integrate their Twitter feeds into the bars below. This would truly customise the experience in a way that no broadcaster has ever achieved. This is how I’ve always assumed Twitter would have approached live streaming - it’s a smart move from Amazon.
It will also be interesting from an industry perspective to see whether Amazon tracks how many people watch the coverage vertically versus horizontally. This may dictate how much further innovation we see in this format.
The future of sports sponsorship
For me, with my work hat on at least, the highlight of Tuesday night’s experience was the advertising and sponsorship. We saw an ad from Puma, featuring its new Man City shirt. Duracell was present, along with a host of ads for Amazon Prime Video content, including the Man City documentary ‘All or Nothing’.
While the content was not notably different from what you’d expect to see in typical football ad breaks, they did provide a glimpse into the future of sports advertising. This is the merging of sponsorship and commerce; sponsorship teams and rights holders want to provide better data on ROI back to brand teams. They want to know the benefits of buying certain spots, of sponsoring certain teams.
What we saw was the complete closed loop of this. Every ad finished with a direct call to action - available now on Amazon.
You can see where this is heading - seamless ‘add to basket’ experiences. If Amazon can start to integrate some of the shopping functionality that YouTube annotations have, and can tie its commerce back end with the Prime Video front end, there’s a whole world of opportunities.
Just imagine Mo Salah taking to the pitch in a new pair of Adidas boots, scoring a last-minute winner in a Boxing Day game - and a parent being able to add them to their basket for delivery before their child’s match the next day.
This feels like a seminal shift in sports broadcasting, the leap that we’ve been predicting and waiting for over the last few years. At the moment, TV still dominates sports coverage in terms of mass appeal, but it’s got a lot of work to do if it’s going to be able to compete with the innovation of digital-first platforms in the long-term.
Joe Weston is the director of We Are Social Sport.