For UK and Ireland subscribers of live Premier League games, we are now under a month away from the arrival of a third supplier in the market – Amazon, via their streaming service Amazon Prime. For those unfamiliar with the history of the broadcasting of top flight football in England, the game has moved from provision by free-to-air services in the 1980s, to subscription television since 1992.
Our paper in the Journal of Sports Economics this year explains why the BSkyB monopoly from 1992 to 2007 was brought to an end by the European Commission. However, since then Sky Sports has competed with only one other provider at a given time. While the competition has changed from Setanta Sports, to ESPN, to BT Sports, the ending of the 12-year-old duopoly by Amazon next month is uncharted territory.
While the European Commission’s intervention in the market, to break up the monopoly, sought to protect consumers, it has only resulted in making it worse. A 3rd provider may be another step in the wrong direct.
From December 3rd Amazon Prime will show 2 of the 20 live games it has rights to screen during the 2019/20 season. However, unlike Sky Sports and BT Sports it won’t be possible to watch all live games as some occur simultaneously. Crystal Palace v Bournemouth will kick-off at 7.30pm on December 3rd while Burnley v Manchester City will start at 8:15pm. This means a clash between part of the second half of the 7.30pm game and first half of the 8.15pm game.
Things get worse the following night. On Wednesday the 4th, five games will kick-off together at 7.30pm (Chelsea v Aston Villa, Leicester v Watford, Manchester United v Tottenham, Southampton v Norwich Wolves v West Ham) while the Merseyside Derby between Liverpool and Everton will start at 8.15pm.
Given the kick-off times in the second round of games Amazon Prime will show on the 26th of December, it will only be possible to watch 8 of the 20 games in their entirety. All 128 games on Sky Sports, and the 52 games on BT Sports can be watched as they do not clash with one another. The 3rd provider has a different set of dynamics and one has to wonder how customers will react.