Amazon isn’t shy about its push into sports broadcasting, but a recent deal to give Prime members access to 21 Yankees games this season as part-owner in the team’s network is another testament to its growing ambitions.
Prime members who live in New York state, Connecticut, northeast Pennsylvania, and north and central New Jersey will be able to stream all 21 games, according to a press release. Each game is thanks to nonexclusive local rights to specific Yankees games available through its own network, YES — meaning anything airing on national broadcasts will be blacked out.
The news comes just a few days after Sinclair Group and Google alerted YouTube TV subscribers to ongoing disputes over carrying Fox’s regional sports networks and YES, which carries the Yankees games. Amazon first acquired a stake in YES back in August after Disney sold its 80 percent stake. The deal was split among a few parties, including the Yankees, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Amazon, and RedBird Capital.
Twenty-one games in local markets might not seem like much, but it represents Amazon’s bigger push to becoming a sports streaming giant. Amazon streams Thursday Night Football, the company also struck deals to carry Premier League matches in the UK (an important part of its global push), and it struck a contract last year to stream a package of massively popular UEFA Champions League tournament matches in Germany.
Sports is the next big frontier in streaming, and it’s a space that a number of major companies are clamoring to own. Amazon first made its intentions public in 2018 when the company hired former ESPN executive vice president Marie Donoghue to head up its sports broadcasting unit. New deals with leagues and playing with how those games are streamed has set Amazon up as a top contender. Add in that Amazon is a global company with a strong foothold in many international markets, and it’s apparent just how important owning a multitude of sports licenses becomes to the company’s entertainment future
Amazon isn’t the only company interested in the space, though — far from it. DAZN, a sports streaming service mostly known for its boxing and Premier League coverage, announced yesterday that it’s expanding into 200 new countries. DAZN executive chairman John Skipper — also former president of ESPN — hasn’t tried to hide how integral he believes streaming will be to the future of sports entertainment. Part of the expansion is to get ahead of ESPN Plus, Disney’s direct-to-consumer sports streaming service that carries an assortment of games and UFC tournaments, which former Disney CEO Bob Iger suggested could see international expansion. Amazon is seemingly light-years ahead.
“We are always looking for ways to enhance the value of a Prime membership for our customers, and we believe Yankees fans are going to love having a selection of games on Prime Video this season,” Donoghue said in a press release. “We want to give Prime members access to the broadest selection of content across the broadest number of devices, and this deal gives Prime Video the opportunity to work with the top regional sports network in America and one of the most beloved franchises in all of sports.”
Amazon is in the race, alongside Disney, DAZN, AT&T, NBC, and more. Starting with the Yankees is a good way to bring more people into the Amazon ecosystem. For example, the Yankees games that stream on Prime Video will include Amazon’s X-Ray technology, which allows members using Android, iOS, and Fire TV to see in-game stats and more while they watch the game. If successful, Amazon could bid on other local games within the MLB.
The first game will stream on April 17th when the Yankees take on the Cincinnati Reds. The game starts at 7PM ET.