Never an US Open mattered so much for media

tennis court photoThis year, the US Open, one of the four Grand Slam tennis world tournaments, will not be measured by the skills of the most talented players in the world. The eyes will all be behind the camera – or better, the servers – on the possible major disruptor that has caused havoc in many areas: Amazon.

After sowing the seeds of destruction into the brick-and-mortar retail, video and others, the Jeff Bezos company is taking its risks into a massively competitive niche of sports broadcasting, as Guardian Media reported last Saturday. Although the deal is being watched closely by the main sports networks, the venture has a more sensible effect. Amazon’s reach makes one wonder about how sports rights will address the markets now that the big players don’t depend on national licenses to broadcast.

Major TV networks like ESPN, Sky and Fox Sports stake in the game was always tied to their physical presence in the markets. Now, other than the muscle (including the leverage they have in marketing and promotion terms) they’ve acquired in the last decades is the only criteria that allow them to be in the business.

If competitors are concerned with having another player to push TV rights prices up, they should second-think. It is the least of their problems. Amazon’s real threat lies in the fact that can offer franchises, leagues and clubs more than money – they can offer partnership. Amazon’s robust infrastructure will enable the owners of the show to sell the whole cake instead of just a piece. Streaming on this scale is a tough task (as Fox and even YouTube can confirm), but if there is someone able to try, it’s the e-commerce titan. Google and possibly Netflix will also monitor the Amazon’s experience closely, as likely candidates to future enterprises.

This giant’s game will unfold quickly as TV rights contracts are no longer signed into the far future, as holders know that the following deal is always bigger, but still, there are other aspects to pay attention. Is there any sense in blocking streams geographically or it’s just clutter inherited from the previous media business models? Is there still space to go-betweens, or the producers will adopt in-house solutions to have – all – the profit? And can the audiences expect to have smaller prices and fairer coverages than the premium pay-per-view insanely expensive packages?

Cassiano Gobbet