NAB NY: Panel Says Tech Giants Will Step Up Sports Rights Push

New York -- Tech giants like Amazon are expected to move more aggressively into the sports rights business as rights deals come up, but it will continue to be at a gradual pace, according to a panel discussion at the NAB Show NY here Wednesday.

In the past, tech companies like Amazon have shaken up the market with their entrance into the sports rights fray, but while the deals have made headlines, they didn’t require a huge outlay of cash, said Sports Media Advisors CEO Doug Perlman at the panel discussion, Sports Rights and the Future of Broadcasting.

“This time around it will be a material deal -- not a prime package -- but a digital player that secures significant exclusive rights,” Perlman said.

Amazon paid about $50 million for streaming rights for 10 Thursday Night Football games in 2017, later renewing that deal for an undisclosed amount for the 2018-19 seasons. 

But the panelists were split in estimating big tech’s interest in rights deals as they come up. The NFL is the highest profile league to come up for renewal -- its deal expires in 2021-2022 -- but there are other leagues that will step up to the stage like Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association in the next several years.

Horizon Media SVP, director of Horizon Media Sports Investment team Adam Schwartz said he expects a major tech player to take a bigger slice of NFL rights this time around.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they broke out part of the Sunday window with one of these players,” Schwartz said. “The money is going to be there regardless of what they do.”

Bevilacqua Helvant Ventures co-founder Chris Bevilacqua was a little more cautious.

“I think the NFL will sell a package, but I’m skeptical tech players are ready for an all-in jump like that. They seem to be so far dabbling with little sports deals,” Bevilacqua said, noting Amazon’s participation as a minority equity partner in The New York Yankees and Sinclair Broadcast Group’s purchase of the YES Network from Disney. 

“The NFL is an order of magnitude beyond that,” Bevilacqua added. “I’m not sure I see that yet.”