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Big Tech Companies Investing in Live Sports

By: Zhihan Jiang

A decade after Apple and Amazon disrupted the music and retail industries, respectively, they are now turning their sights to another industry - sports.

Eager to boost subscriptions for their streaming services Apple TV and Prime Video, the companies have invested in deals to obtain media rights for National Football League, Major League Baseball, Formula One racing, and college conferences.

Google, not wanting to fall behind, is also chasing after these rights. In 2023, Google will start offering a bid from YouTube for media rights also. Apple and Amazon's interest in this isn’t a surprise. Last year, sports made up for 95 percent of the most watched shows on television.

“It’s hard when you’re competing with entities that aren’t playing by the same financial rules,” said Bob Iger, the former chief executive and chairperson of the Walt Disney Company, which controls ESPN, referring to the company’s money supply.

The companies have their eye set on the NFL Sunday Ticket package. The package shows Sunday NFL games that are not shown on local television - and is only available because DIRECTV chose not to bid on it.

Although Apple has made obtaining the package a priority and is considered in the lead by several people, the deal has been halted by other negotiations over other NFL media assets, including NFL Network, RedZone channel and NFL+.

Tim Crook, Apple’s chief executive, has met with league officials and influential team owners, such as Jerry Jones, who owns the Dallas Cowboys, and the Kraft Family, who own the New York Patriots.

Brian Rolapp, the N.F.L.’s chief media and business officer, said in a statement that the league expects to finalize a deal in the coming months. “A number of companies are in strong position to potentially land Sunday Ticket, but we still have a ways to go in this process,” Mr. Rolapp added.

Opportunities for Apple and Amazon also lie overseas. European soccer leagues resell their media rights every two years, allowing Amazon to have bought rights for UEFA Champions, Europe’s top tournament, and the English Premier League.

“It comes down to a Silicon Valley ego thing,” Mr. Daniel Cohen, who leads global media rights consulting for Octagon, a sports agency said of the high-dollar N.F.L. deal said. “I don’t see a road to profitability. I see a road to victory.”

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