Amazon make low-key live Premier League debut
US e-commerce giant Amazon’s entry into the live broadcasting of Premier League football was expected to be full of glitz and innovation but instead, they played safe in sticking to a tried and tested formula.
Amazon is the first of the tech giants to dip their toe into the Premier League after paying £90 million ($118 million, 106.6 million euros) for 20 games a year over three years, breaking up the duopoly of Sky and BT Sport.
But in the matches, shown on Amazon Prime, the seller’s premium service available for a fee, the pundits and commentators were familiar faces and Amazon branding was far from evident.
One thing that did not appear to go down well with fans attending the matches was the kick-off time of the marquee match — Manchester City’s win against Burnley on Tuesday and Liverpool’s victory against Everton on Wednesday — started at 8:15 pm (2015 GMT) on both evenings.
A section of Crystal Palace fans at Tuesday’s home match with Bournemouth expressed their feelings in no uncertain fashion by brandishing a banner with: ‘Kick Offs Sold To the Highest Bidder, Amazon Profits, Fans Suffer.’
The photograph got widespread play in the British media and globally which could prove uncomfortable for Amazon.
Amazon have been at pains to emphasise it pays all its British tax (£793 million in 2018) but that could be put to the test, according to the well-respected Daily Telegraph Chief Football writer Sam Wallace.
“It cannot expect to roll into English football without those credentials being examined and as the Palace supporters showed on Tuesday night, a banner at a Premier League stadium framing an awkward question can travel around the world as fast as the video clip of a goal,” he wrote.
‘Weird noiseless future’
The banners might well be more prevalent when it comes to Amazon’s second round of matches on Boxing Day (December 26) as the matches are spread from 12:30 pm (1230 GMT) (Tottenham at home to Brighton) to five 1500 GMT kick-offs, then a 1730 GMT game (Manchester United v Newcastle) and rounded off at 2000 with Leicester hosting Liverpool.
Attending those matches will be even more demanding for the fans as no trains run on the day.
Amazon’s clear advantage over the likes of BT and Sky is on the tech side and the sound of matches without commentary.
“Indeed just a couple of clicks away from the main feed lay a glimpse of just where Amazon may be taking this,” observed The Guardian.
“Squirrelled away on a page called ‘Audio languages’ was an option to turn off the commentary entirely by selecting the “Stadium Atmosphere” feed.
“The effect was immediately startling. (Bournemouth player) Jefferson Lerma chugged away in near silence.
“Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) drifted from touchline to touchline entirely unencumbered by comment.
“It felt like peering into a weird, noiseless future.
“Perhaps it will not surprise you to learn that (the company’s founder) Jeff Bezos likes to start meetings at Amazon with half an hour of complete silence.”
Given that some football pundits are largely ridiculed for their observations — “a game of two halves” and “either side could win” — this may prove to be a popular option.
Some also welcomed fewer advertisement breaks.
On a more prosaic level, Manchester City — who have close ties with Amazon after making a fly-on-the-wall documentary on the club a couple of years ago — are indebted to them as the camera crew lent them alight after their dressing room at Burnley’s Turf Moor was plunged into darkness on Tuesday.
At the end of it though will come a cold, hard business decision for Amazon — how many of those who took up Amazon Prime’s 30-day free trial will be satisfied and pay the monthly subscription of £7.99 or sign off within the 30-day period and pay nothing?
The answer may take a while to emerge.