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Amazon Prime enters live streaming of sports in India, and it's huge

Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson exchanging pleasantries
Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson will be crossing swords in New Zealand soon, and it will be seen in India on Amazon Prime (Image credit: BCCI)
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For most marketing mavens, the way to India's heart is through cricket. Amazon Prime Video is the latest one to take that route. The streaming platform has announced its first foray into live sports in India, with the acquisition of India territory rights for New Zealand Cricket through the 2025-26 season. 

The deal has the potential to cause a major stir in the Indian sports telecast ecosystem which is currently dominated by the Disney-owned Star Network, and Sony.

Analysts are already of the opinion that it is only a matter of time that before Amazon starts bidding for more lucrative and popular ICC and BCCI events (like the IPL) when their next bidding cycle arrives.

The Amazon Prime and New Zealand Cricket deal

Amazon Prime Video has become the first Indian streaming service to secure exclusive live cricket rights from a major cricketing board. The deal covers all international matches to be played in New Zealand till end of 2025-2026 season, including when Team India tours New Zealand in early 2022, and a second tour with dates to be announced later.

Prime Video will be the one-stop streaming destination in India for all international cricket matches played in New Zealand - including both men’s and women’s cricket, across ODI, T20 and Tests.

The rights for 2020-2021 season starting later this month is intended to be syndicated, Amazon said in a press statement.

Gaurav Gandhi, Director & Country General Manager, Amazon Prime Video said, “We are excited to add India’s most loved game—Cricket—to our content selection for our Prime Video customers, and we are thrilled to work with New Zealand Cricket on this endeavor as they have a strong, passionate and much-loved cricket team, and the cricketing rivalry between the two countries has been fantastic. We are happy to make this collaboration with New Zealand Cricket our first live sport offering in India, and are confident that our Prime members will be delighted with this initiative”.

David White, Chief Executive New Zealand Cricket, for his part said, “this partnership with Amazon Prime Video is massive for NZC - we’re delighted and proud to be teaming up with such a famous and successful brand. As we’ve said before, the future of live sport is streaming and in Amazon Prime Video we have a partner right at the center of the industry; innovative, trend-setter and well-known for putting fans and subscribers first.” 

"India has always been important for viewership of NZC; no other country follows cricket like India, so it’s exciting to be announcing this agreement with India’s leading streamer,” he added.

Amazon Prime Video's sports lineup

The Indian territory New Zealand Cricket rights package is the latest in Prime Video’s growing line-up of live sports around the world including Thursday Night Football, the Premier League, ATP Tour Events, WTA, the US Open (tennis), UEFA Champions League, Autumn Nations Cup (rugby), and the Seattle Sounders FC. 

Amazon Prime members can also subscribe to streaming services such as Eurosport, MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, and PGA TOUR LIVE through its Prime Video Channels. 

This in addition to a selection of popular docuseries, including 'The Test: A New Era for Australia’s Team', which follows the Australian men’s cricket team during the 2018/2019 season, and Emmy-winning Amazon Original All or Nothing, among many others.

Can Amazon Prime impact India's sports telecast ecosystem?

As it happens, Amazon Prime has landed the deal with New Zealand Cricket after Star Network did not renew its deal after the last India tour in February this year. 

The Disney-owned platform is the one that dominates the cricket telecast/streaming segment in these parts. It has the rights to the Indian Premier League (IPL) until 2022. Star also has the rights to telecast/stream the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the International Cricket Council (ICC) matches until the 2022-23 season.

Star and Sony have been duopolising the field, and that had led to allegations of them wielding power beyond their ken.

"The arrival of a deep-pocketed player like Amazon, if not anything, will at least keep Star and Sony in check," is what one digital telecast market analyst said.

The belief here is that Amazon, which is adding sports events to its streaming roster, will bid for the rights of BCCI, ICC events in the future.

Of course, this is not the first time that a streaming/digital player is making bold to venture into live sports segment. Facebook already is the rights holder for the telecast of the popular La Liga (Spanish football league) in India.

Facebook also tried, albeit unsuccessfully, for the telecast rights of the IPL for the 2018-2022 season. It was ready to put in Rs 3900 crore. But it was pipped by Star Network.

The thing here is while Star Sports has Disney+ Hotstar for streaming, still it has its regular sports television channels to offer back-up. (These days, digital and television rights are mostly offered as separate deals).

Amazon Prime, as we said, will syndicate its rights at least for this season to another TV player, it is said.

Over three decades as a journalist covering current affairs, politics, sports and now technology. Former Editor of News Today, writer of humour columns across publications and a hardcore cricket and cinema enthusiast. He writes about technology trends and suggest movies and shows to watch on OTT platforms.