The English Premier League (EPL) is probably the most popular league in football. Scratch that, the most popular league in sport. It is so popular that even here in Zimbabwe entertainment buffs will judge any aspiring entertainment provider on whether or not they provide the EPL.
We saw this when Kwese was launched, banned, relaunched and re-banned in this country. Many a people stated simply that they would not consider Kwese for a single moment unless and until they had the EPL. Kwese knew this and their official response to that is that they are working on bringing the EPL to Kwese TV pronto.
They are not the only ones vying for a piece of the huge pie that is the EPL though. With rights to the league for 2016-2019 going for over $6.8 billion, only the big boys can play at that poker table. Internet giants Facebook and Amazon are believed to be in the mix too.
In an earnings call, Manchester United vice chairman Ed Woodward said this of the two internet giants,
Absolutely, I think they’ll enter the mix, I think anecdotally there was strong interest in the last cycle.
Both Facebook and Amazon have stepped up their interest in sports streaming rights. Amazon gained the rights to stream NFL (American football) games on Thursdays in the US. They also won rights to the ATP World Tour (tennis) for the next five years, outbidding Sky and ITV in the process.
Facebook was not sitting on its laurels while all that happened. Just last month Facebook lost out to Star India on IPL (cricket) rights. What they did score however were rights to the Champions League (football,) through a partnership with Fox Sports. The rights apply to the US market only, for now. That’s right, Facebook is showing the Champions League in the United States right now, they started this month, September. They have also been showing one La Liga (Spanish football league) game per week for free since around February this year, to all regions.
As these internet giants join the sports rights battle it becomes clear that companies like DStv have new powerful competitors. That is why we talked about the internet being DStv’s competitor and not Kwese TV. Facebook, Amazon and others have joined the fray to provide sports content legally to their subscribers. People have been accessing that content illegally on Facebook anyway so they figured demand is already there.
The Manchester United vice chairman said the likes of Facebook and Amazon will absolutely enter the next EPL rights bidding war. The Champions League and the Europa League too. Said Woodward,
We are hearing that around the Premier League table but we’re also hearing that from a European perspective as well, in terms of interest in the Champions League and in Europa rights.
But I think the wider picture you have to look at what is happening elsewhere at the moment because obviously there aren’t any clear European sales to these kind of partners at the moment
We are going to see an increasing engagement from those organisations and it is going to be increasingly important to digitally engage with fans.
That digital engagement with sports fans he spoke of is becoming more and more important. It is probably the biggest reason DStv should be afraid. We already are on Facebook and communicating with friends and family as well as following our favourite teams’ accounts. So getting our sporting fix there will make it much easier for us to engage with the teams and they with us, even as we discuss more about the sport itself.
So what do you think about this? Would you be comfortable watching sport on Facebook? The threat to DStv is not as immediate as some might make it seem but make no mistake, it is there. If internet access was not an issue, would you want to watch television on Facebook?