For the first time, the Champions League will be streamed in England. Amazon has acquired the rights to stream some games and split coverage of the league with current rightsholders BT Sport.
The move represents yet another major competition heading to a streaming service after the MLS signed a global rights deal with Apple in June. This trend is unlikely to stop, and more competitions will likely sign deals with streaming services, which could have a massive impact on how the sport is watched globally.
A Changing Landscape
Streaming services have risen in popularity dramatically in recent years. Now, several services, including Amazon’s Prime Video, NBC’s Peacock, CBS’ Paramount+, and the Walt Disney Company through ESPN+, have moved into sports.
Champions League matches are already streamed in America, where they are broadcasted on Paramount+, although some matches are also available through conventional television on CBS or CBS Sports Network. As a result, a combined streaming and conventional broadcasting format is something the Champions League is familiar with.
Amazon has been aggressive in adding sports to its portfolio globally. The company added the NFL’s Thursday Night Football to its streaming service last year with an 11-year agreement that sees them exclusively broadcast the game. Earlier this year Amazon took another step forward, announcing long-time broadcasters Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit would be the broadcast team for Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime.
As a result, it is unsurprising that the company would want to become more involved in the global sports scene, and securing the Champions League rights in the U.K. will be a huge boost for Prime Video. English teams have had incredible success in the competition in recent years, with Chelsea and Manchester City participating in a solely Premier League final in 2021 before Liverpool reached the final of the competition last year.
It is not unprecedented for sports leagues and competitions to move to streaming, but most of those deals, especially in soccer, have not been agreed to in Europe. In the United States, La Liga, the Bundesliga, and Serie A, among others, are all broadcasted almost entirely on streaming services.
However, MLS’ recent agreement to broadcast all of its games on Apple TV, and the Champions League deal with Amazon, represent a shift in the media landscape. The two agreements show how popular streaming services have become as a broadcasting option, and how competitive streaming services are in the competition to secure broadcasting rights.
Where Things are Headed
The recent deals between Apple and the MLS and Amazon and the Champions League are most likely the start of a trend across soccer. Soccer is the world’s most popular sport, and streaming services will see soccer as an opportunity to access a global audience to increase subscriptions and revenue.
While the Champions League deal with Amazon is limited to U.K. broadcasts, it shows that the company will likely attempt to reach agreements to cover soccer in other countries as more opportunities become available. In the long-term, there will continue to be a shift away from television to more broadcasts on streaming services.
Amazon’s deal with the Champions League also shows that around the world major leagues will continue to shift to streaming. The Champions League is one of the most-watched competitions in Europe, as the NFL is in the United States, and this agreement shows the willingness of major sports leagues to broadcast their games outside of cable or broadcast television.
Soccer will continue to evolve both on and off the field. In the future, streaming services will become a more significant part of the media landscape, and soccer is one of the sports which will see an increasing shift towards streaming services over the next few years.