In the autumn of 2020, Amazon Prime won the rights to broadcast the Rugby Nations Autumn Cup. This was the first time that the rugby union governing body has sold the rights to their games to a streaming service. This demonstrates the current trend and growth of streaming sport, potentially allowing more accessibility to customers (Hutchins and Rowe, 2019). This blog will examine whether Amazon Prime’s streaming of the Rugby Nations Autumn Cup was a positive initiative for streaming services, including the potential cause for growth in the live sport streaming service market.
Unlike subscription-based television, live streaming services are less costly to purchase for the customer and are accessible for use on several devices. Szymanski (2003) states that in countries where sport is broadcast live on subscription-based television channels there has often been a decline in the viewership of sport. However, articles that analyse the effects of live coverage of high-level sport in the United Kingdom and Spain disclose that evidence to uphold this claim is feeble (Allan and Roy, 2008; Baimbridge, Cameron, and Dawson, 1996; Garcia and Rodriguez, 2002; Carmichael, Millington, and Simmons, 1999). Live broadcasting on streaming services does make the sport of Rugby Union more available to people around the UK. It addresses financial and travel constraints encountered with following a European based tournament.
The Autumn Nations Cup, like most other multinational sport leagues, has changed its televised coverage packages from subscription-based television to streaming services. Similar to the majority of other professional sporting bodies, national teams who participate in European based competitions create a large percentage of their income from broadcasting deals, advertised by the competition (Andreff, 2009). Therefore, the Autumn Nations Cup is more motivated to accept an offer from the top bidder, giving more income to the teams involved. However, German handball decided broadcasting deals can have a detrimental effect, with a sharp decline in viewership and interest in the sport (Meier et al, 2019). They decided to not take the offer of subscription television, instead taking the decision to put the sport on free-to-air television, with the aim of getting more viewership to install a culture of watching handball and raising participation.
For Amazon Prime to take the audience of Rugby Union from subscription-based viewing to streaming demonstrates the start of a culture shift. For journalists and television channels this digital disruption has been alarming, as sport streaming has permitted the sport to become a lot more affordable and convenient for viewers who can now access content on smart devices (Zelizer, 1993). With the rise of social media and the process of communicating with one another becoming easier, the culture of sport journalism and broadcasting will modify to a more consumer centre approach to broadcasting, therefore making broadcasting more structured and inclusive (Boyle, 2017). This poses the question: does the sport-broadcasting sector need to undergo change in order to keep up with an ever-evolving sports consumer?
Allan, G. and Roy, G. (2008). Does television crowd out spectators? Journal of Sports Economics, 9 (1), pp. 592-605
Andreff, M. (2009) Global trade in sports goods: International specialisation of major trading countries. European Sport Management Quarterly, 9(3), pp. 259-294.
Baimbridge, M. Cameron, S., and Dawson, P. (1996). Satellite television and the demand for football: A whole new ball game? Scottish Journal of Political Economy, 43 (1), pp. 317-333
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Carmichael, F. Millington, J. and Simmons, R. (1999) Elasticity of demand for rugby league attendance and the impact of BskyB. Applied Economics Letters, 6 (1), pp. 797-800.
Garcia, J. and Rodriguez, P. (2002) The determinants of football match attendance revisited. Journal of Sports Economics, 3 (1), pp. 18-38.
Hutchins, B. and Rowe, D. (2019). Over-the-top sport: live streaming services, changing coverage rights markets and the growth of media sport portals. Media, Culture & Society, 41(7), pp. 975-994.
Meier, M. Tan, K. H. Lim, M. K. and Chung, L. (2019). Unlocking innovation in the sport industry through additive manufacturing. Business Process Management Journal. Pp. 1 – 18
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Zelizer, B. (1993) “Journalists as Interpretive Communities.” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 10 (3): pp. 219–237.