Amazon has struck a groundbreaking deal to broadcast Champions League football matches live in the UK, starting in 2024, European football’s governing body UEFA unveiled on Friday.
The deal, details of which were leaked ahead of the announcement, will see Amazon share the UK rights to Europe’s top-rated club tournament with current UK rights holder BT Sport.
BT Sport, which is to merge in a joint venture with Warner Bros.’ sports network Eurosport. Discovery later this year will still retain the vast majority of matches in the Champions League, Europa League and UEFA Conference League third tier tournaments. .
Amazon’s deal will give the online giant one game a week, around 20 games a season, in Europe’s premier competition.
The new deal kicks off in 2024 – when the Champions League tournament is due to grow from 32 to 36 teams under a new format – until 2027.
Prime Video has secured the exclusive broadcast rights to Tuesday Night’s Champions League first-choice matches. Each encounter will always feature an English team through the group stages and, if they have qualified, through to the semi-finals.
“The addition of UEFA Champions League football is a truly momentous moment for Prime Video in the UK,” said Alex Green, Managing Director of Prime Video Sport Europe.
The Champions League deal is the biggest sports rights deal Amazon has made in the UK and will further cement its position as a major player in the live sports business. In March, the online giant entered into an 11-year deal, valued at $1 billion a year, to broadcast NFL football games live in the United States. He has a three-year contract to broadcast Champions League games live in Germany, a deal which started last time. season. Amazon also owns the Champions League rights for Italy.
Amazon signed its first major sports deal in the UK in 2018, signing a deal to broadcast 20 live matches from the domestic football division, the Premiere League.
The Champions League deal is a further sign of the enduring value of high-end live sports in the battle between broadcasters and streamers for audience loyalty. Last month, Viacom18, a joint venture between Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, Paramount Global and Bodhi Tree Systems backed by James Murdoch, paid $2.6 billion (205 billion rupees) for the streaming rights to the Premier Indian Cricket League, while Disney paid $3 billion (235.75 billion rupees) to retain exclusive sports television rights for the next five years.
The Champions League, an annual football tournament between Europe’s top-ranked clubs, is among Europe’s most valuable sporting rights. Last year’s final, between English side Chelsea and Manchester City, drew 8.7 million viewers on BT’s main digital channel and its free-streaming YouTube channel.
Britain’s public broadcaster, the BBC, has also secured the rights to show highlights of Champions League matches on its popular Game of the day program.
BT has been the exclusive UK broadcaster of the Champions League since 2015 after beating co-holders Sky and ITV with a bid of $1.46bn (£1.2bn), a record figure at the time .
Britain is UEFA’s biggest market for Champions League rights, with media putting the value of those rights for the 2024-27 cycle at £1.4bn-£1.5bn. dollars ($1.7 billion to $1.8 billion). This figure covers Champions League, Europa League and Conference League tournaments. Amazon and the BBC are said to have paid over £200m ($242m) for their Champions League rights, although all parties declined to give specific figures.
Paolo Pescatore, an analyst at PP Foresight, called the new deal unveiled on Friday a “victory for all parties”. He explained: “As BT Sport loses its exclusivity, it offers long-term certainty in the joint venture with Discovery, giving fans more games and for less money.” He also pointed out: “More players means fragmentation, but that shouldn’t be a big problem. Amazon is now establishing itself as a key sports provider in the UK while continuing to steadily strengthen its programming. This will help further increase Prime subscriptions and sales with more live sport throughout the year.
But Pescatore also noted: “UEFA have been able to increase the value of the rights by opening up the bidding and the packages to more players. It won’t diminish with the fans if they are forced to pay more in these unprecedented time with the higher cost of living. He added: “A surprising winner is the BBC who will seek to replicate the success of Match of The Day. More free-to-air sport will be a winner for all viewers and will make the premium European football more accessible.
Meanwhile, “the biggest question mark is (sports streamer) DAZN and if there’s been any interest,” Pescatore said. “It will be another blow to his own aspirations in the UK, as some of those rights would have helped his precarious position, all the more so given the failed acquisition of BT Sport.”
Enders Analysis analyst Francois Godard suggested in a report before the deal was officially announced: “BT Sport’s packages, while less comprehensive than in the current cycle, will include more matches , thanks to the expansion of the Champions League.We imagine that BT Sport’s offer is in line with the February agreement, under which Warner Bros. Discovery took a 50% stake in the broadcaster. ‘other words, we’re guessing Warner is all behind it.
He also wrote: “Amazon’s entry into the UK Champions League rights market comes as no surprise – the platform already broadcasts the competition in Germany and Italy and has participated in the French auction (won by Canal+ of Vivendi). The move is also in line with Amazon’s habit of taking positions vacated by incumbents rather than challenging them to inflationary bids.