Amazon has reportedly put in a first-round bid for all of the 22 regional sports TV networks being sold by 21st Century Fox. The move would mark another significant step by the e-commerce giant into the sports broadcasting space, which already streams a number of live sports events over Amazon Prime Video.
As one of the conditions set by federal regulators for Disney’s takeover of Fox, Fox’s portfolio of 22 regional sports networks must be sold off, with Disney having now received a first round of bids. While the networks might be split up and sold separately to different groups, Amazon has put in a bid for all 22, according to CNBC.
The networks collectively are valued at around $20 billion, with New York’s YES Network one of the biggest on offer. The networks broadcast thousands of live sports matches across their channels including NFL, NBA, MLB and MLS games.
Amazon’s venture into live sports broadcasting has sped up significantly over the past year. The tech giant earlier this year renewed its deal with the NFL to digitally broadcast Thursday night games, and also won the UK broadcasting rights for the US Open tennis tournament. It also won one package of UK rights for the English Premier League, seen by many as particularly significant given the popularity of the competition.
While Amazon is not the only tech giant to be testing the waters of sports broadcasting (Facebook and Twitter have both also been active in the space), some believe that it best placed to monetise costly sports content. As VAN has previously reported, Amazon could use sports broadcasting to drive more customers into its e-commerce business.
Should Amazon continue to pursue Fox’s networks, it would stand out from its previous moves in sports broadcasting for a number of reasons. Firstly, this would be a big step into the linear TV space – new ground for the company. Secondly, Amazon would be buying businesses with significant experience in sports broadcasting. The tech giants’ relative lack of knowledge in handling live sports events has been highlighted as a factor holding them back from moving more aggressively – it’s possible that Amazon would use these experienced broadcasters to enhance its existing sports streams.
The bidding process is still in its early stages however, and Amazon will have to see off a number of other suitors to acquire the networks. New Fox (the remnant of Fox assets not bought buy Disney) has apparently not submitted a first round bid, but expected to be a contender. Meanwhile an unknown sovereign wealth fund, Apollo Group Management, KKR & Co, The Blackstone Group, Sinclair Broadcast Group and TEGNA all reported to have also made initial bids.