Advanced Television

Amazon’s ‘live TV’ plans for Europe

May 23, 2017

By Chris Forrester

Amazon has quietly been assembling live TV channels to offer as à la carte options to its Amazon Prime Video service.  The service, launching in UK, Germany and Austria echoes that launched in the US in 2015.

Amazon’s new platform, which is being delivered through the existing Prime Video app, allows customers to select from more than 40 on-demand TV channels. These include ITV, Discovery, Eurosport, MGM and Amazon’s own curated Bollywood channel Heera.  Discovery is providing the best-known pay-TV channels to the service, offering Eurosport for £6.99 (€8.1) a month and Discovery Channel for £4.99 a month. The UK service will include about 40 channels those in Germany and Austria 25 each.

“Amazon launched a similar thing in the US, and the big selling point was that you could get HBO and Showtime programmes, all under one umbrella,” said Tom Harrington, an analyst at Enders, talking to the BBC. “That’s not going to happen here. Sky have HBO and Showtime locked down, at least for now, and will hold on to them aggressively.

Analysts at investment bank Exane/BNP-Paribas stated: “The Channels service has already launched in the US, and provides access to HBO, Showtime and Cinemax – a more appealing list of headliners than the UK version. This is a small positive for ITV and negative for Sky. The larger worry for European broadcasters will be if Amazon now follows up their more ambitious North American move into live sport. Last week Amazon announced a deal last month to stream 10 of the NFL’s Thursday Night Football games while Twitter now broadcasts some golf and women’s basketball and Facebook streams MLB. Amazon has already got Bundesliga audio internet rights and will start live-streaming the French Open via Eurosport but further expansion into European premium sports content by any of the Google/Facebook/Amazon/Netflix will be taken negatively for broadcasters.”

As far as the impact on Sky’s satellite service, the bank said: “This is also likely to add to the negative sentiment on Eutelsat and SES as it raises the risk of technological substitution. Given its focus on Western Europe and the US, SES seems most exposed. Note however, that it is consistent with our long term view that terrestrial broadband and satellite are likely to end up as the two main broadcasting infrastructures for live channels. Not only are satellites likely to be required to cover white spaces, but we also believe it is in broadcasters’ economic interest to maintain two competing distribution platforms.”

Paolo Pescatore, Director, Multiplay and Media at CCS Insight, commented: “A highly disruptive move and one that threatens Sky’s dominance in the pay TV market both in the UK and Germany. Beyond free to air services, the addition of Discovery’s channels is hugely significant. This is the first time that its channels have been made available outside of the Sky universe and out of a bundle. In our opinion, this will force many households to think twice about their pay TV subscription and cut the cord as we’ve seen in the US. Especially if Amazon will add more live TV such as sports in the future.”

“This latest announcement aligns with one of our CCS Insight predictions: that the move to Internet delivery of TV programming will see a return to large bundles of content. There’s been a rush toward online video services and so-called “skinny” bundles, accompanied by a proliferation of separate apps for each provider. But in reality, customers will not want to sign up to numerous services, receive more bills and be forced to open several apps to find the content they want. In our view, the disparate and disjointed nature of these apps will lead frustrated customers to reengage with big content bundles delivered over Internet connections. Video is proving to be a battle ground for all Web providers as underlined by recent announcements.”

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