Amazon has made noises for a while about expanding their sports streaming presence, and while they lost out to Twitter for NFL Thursday Night Football rights, they do appear to be making some moves that suggest there’s further sports content to come. Re/code’s Peter Kafka reports that Amazon brought in James DeLorenzo in March as the head of a new sports group:
The giant retailer, which tried but failed to land a deal to stream live NFL games, wants to stream other sports via its growing web video operation.
That’s why it has hired an executive to head up a new sports group: James DeLorenzo started working at the company as head of sports in March, per his LinkedIn bio. That’s the hire I said Amazon was trying to make earlier this year, noting that it had approached several high-level executives.
DeLorenzo comes to Amazon after a year at Relativity Media, the troubled Hollywood studio (which emerged from bankruptcy last month). Prior to that, he ran digital video for Sports Illustrated and helped Time Inc.’s publication launch its 120 Sports video joint venture. I’ve asked Amazon for comment.
We don’t know how big Amazon’s ambitions in sports are, but it certainly has the resources to spend its way into the marketplace if it wants to.
DeLorenzo certainly has relevant experience with digital sports video and a number of high-profile deal-making positions (Sports Business Journal named him to its prestigious Forty Under Forty list in 2014), and Amazon definitely has plenty of money that they could target towards sports rights. However, money alone may not be enough to get many of the most desirable rights. Kafka adds that Amazon eventually bid $15 million for NFL rights, but the NFL opted to go with Twitter’s $10 million bid instead. That might be thanks to concerns about distribution; Twitter is a free service that anyone can access, even without an account, while Amazon’s current streaming is through members-only Amazon Prime (which does offer a free trial, but requires a yearly or monthly subscription after that).
It makes sense for Amazon to want to put sports on their subscription service and attract more people to it, and they’ve been able to gain streaming video rights for a wide variety of movies and TV shows under that model. However, leagues may have some hesitation about Amazon’s total reach compared to free competitors like Twitter, Snapchat, Google and Yahoo. It’s also worth noting that many leagues already have their own streaming services that they may not want to have Amazon compete with. Enough money may eventually solve that, but it wasn’t enough in the case of the NFL. We’ll see who DeLorenzo tries to target, and if Amazon’s strategy works out with other leagues.