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5 December 2019

BT wants everyone to know it produced Amazon’s EPL matches

This week marked a new dawn for the live sports scene as Amazon streamed English Premier League (EPL) soccer matches for the first time after paying an undisclosed – but definitely a record – sum for 20 matches a season for three seasons. Getting its hands on some of the crown jewels is certainly a little embarrassing for the operator duopoly BT and Sky, so BT wanted to make sure that every man and his dog in London this week was aware of its role in the game-changing event.

“This is not widely known but BT Sport actually does the production for Amazon’s EPL matches,” explained BT Sport’s Director of Mobile Strategy, Matt Stagg, speaking at the Video Exchange Streaming conference. “We handle pretty much everything and then Amazon does its own overlay.”

It’s surprising then that Amazon didn’t make a bigger song and dance out of its EPL entrance, instead taking a rather subtle approach in terms of branding. Others have noted that commentators and pundits barely uttered the Amazon name, perhaps under direct instruction from the US technology behemoth not to remind viewers that the beautiful game is a commercial cash wagon. Or perhaps we’re looking too much into it.

Back to the technology now. Stagg also mentioned that in the run up to this week, the BT network team were investigating and projecting the impact that Amazon’s soccer streaming would have on BT’s mobile network EE. The fact that Amazon didn’t have distribution rights for pubs and clubs was factored in, leading BT to the conclusion that it should allow Amazon to distribute these matches through its own pay TV platform.

“We thought about how many thousands of people would be sat in pubs streaming matches on their phones because it wouldn’t be shown on the big screen,” said Stagg.

As we said, Amazon has altered the TV landscape irrevocably and although BT is getting a slice of the pie by handling Amazon’s production, it will be interesting to see whether Amazon decides to take on this role itself. It can certainly afford it, and we know all about its expertise in media processing and delivery with AWS infrastructure, so it just needs the physical production capabilities.

Live sports – how to package it; how to bundle it; how to deliver it; how to secure it; how to make it even more profitable in a 5G world. These were just a handful of the usual topics thrown around at Video Exchange and to be honest there were very few answers.

BT Sport has at least found a way of working with Amazon for the time being, while looking to the future Stagg highlighted the evolution of remote production for which the arrival of 5G will bring even greater opportunities and cost-savings, enabling off-site editing and production. However, Stagg is skeptical about 5G networks bringing with them a revolution of delivering 4K content to mobile devices, describing it as an expensive waste of spectrum.