Liberty Media CEO Sees Amazon Driving Big Tech's TV Sports Rights Ambitions

Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei

"They're only going to get more serious over time," Greg Maffei told an investors conference about the e-commerce giant eyeing live sports agreements, including with the NFL in the U.S. market.

After Amazon Prime signed deals for soccer rights in the U.K. and Germany and is now eyeing more Thursday night NFL games, Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei sees the streaming giant spearheading an accelerated push by Big Tech platforms for more international sports rights.

"Look, Amazon is certainly looking pretty actively at the NFL," Maffei told the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet and Telecom Conference during a virtual session that was webcast on Monday. The e-commerce giant began to stream select NFL Thursday Night Football games on Amazon Prime in 2017.

And recent speculation points to Amazon wanting to nab the rights to all Thursday Night Football games from the NFL as part of current contract renewal talks across the industry. As rival Fox Corp. negotiates with the NFL to renew its football rights packages, CEO Lachlan Murdoch recently hinted that his company may end up eventually just offering Sunday afternoon NFL games and give up its Thursday Night Football.

Maffei said tech platforms have yet to bid big dollars for international sports rights, but Amazon Prime is likely to lead the way. "Amazon has moved from a bit player in the NFL to being a serious player and I suspect they're only going to get more serious over time and they won't be the only ones," he argued.

Liberty Media's sports properties include ownership of the Atlanta Braves in Major League Baseball and the Formulu One race car series. Maffei argued the impetus for Silicon Valley to get into the hunt for global sports rights has come in part from the break up of the cable bundle and "potential pressure" on regional sports networks in the U.S. markets.

In addition to Amazon, DAZN, Facebook, Twitter and Google subsidiary YouTube have to varying degrees entered the live sports streaming arena and now regularly compete in rights auctions in key territories. "The most important thing that drives sports rights is competition. And to the degree we see new digital distributors in these markets, that's a positive," Maffei told the investors conference.