Amazon’s new Kindle Fire tablet device could have a significant impact on sports broadcasting, speeding up the trend towards live streaming of major sports events being available alongside regular TV coverage.
Initially the Kindle Fire will only be available in the US. Judging from the publicity material, it is anticipated that users will primarily want to consume books, magazines, films, TV and music, all of which are on sale through Amazon. Nevertheless, there is great potential for the new device to impact on sports broadcasting around the world because of its price (at $199 it is much cheaper than the iPad and several other rivals) and the strength of Amazon’s brand.
According to news reports, the iPad currently has over 60% of the global market share for table devices and around 80% in North America. Total sales so far worldwide run into tens of millions, which is a small figure compared to the global TV audience.
If Amazon’s cut price competitor can help the market for tablets to grow considerably over the next couple of years the potential audience of sports fans who own tablets will become an appealing target.
Many TV broadcasters already offer live streaming of their programming as well as the TV signal (such as Eurosport and Sky ). This is useful for people who may watch on a laptop at home and also for office workers but the online audience is a small fraction of those who watch on TV. As tablets come within the reach of far more people, this audience could grow dramatically – the bigger screen is much better for watching video footage than a mobile phone.
Beyond the established broadcast networks, online-only media channels are now showing interest in sports broadcasting. It was a notable milestone when YouTube secured the rights in January last year to stream Indian Premier League cricket and agreed to share advertising revenue with the rightsholders.
Facebook could be next – Ultimate Fighting Championship has already streamed matches live through Facebook. One day perhaps Amazon’s Prime service will be in a position to bid for the rights to stream major sports events.
Even if, as seems likely, the traditional broadcasters around the world continue to dominate sports TV rights for some time, the portion of the audience who watch live streaming of sport rather than TV broadcasts looks set to grow.
Sports fans will benefit from more ways of watching their favourite events. It’s also possible to imagine that exclusive hospitality packages to sports events might soon include a Kindle Fire or a similar device so that guests can watch replays and access competition data.
When Amazon started developing their new product the potential impact it would have on sports broadcasting was probably not a major consideration but as it turns out the consequences could be significant.