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Premier League expecting Amazon, Facebook rights bids – United chief

Manchester United vice-chairman Ed Woodward has said Premier League clubs expect internet company Amazon and social media firm Facebook to compete for the next set of rights to the top division of English club football.

Speaking during an investors’ conference call to discuss United’s full-year financial results, Woodward pointed to Amazon and Facebook’s growing prominence in the acquisition of sports rights.

Amazon yesterday (Thursday) entered into a partnership with ATP Media, the broadcast arm of professional men’s tennis circuit the ATP World Tour, through which it will stream the Next Gen Finals.

The deal covers worldwide distribution of the Next Gen Finals, a new season-ending tournament for the world’s top players aged 21 and under. Amazon Prime Video will serve as an official streaming partner of the ATP World Tour as part of the deal, which runs until the end of 2018.

Amazon also recently made its first significant entry into the UK sports market with the acquisition of ATP World Tour 1000 and 500 rights, ousting pay-television broadcaster Sky as the rights holder. The five-year deal will run from 2019 to 2023.

Facebook also gave a signal of its growing ambitions with a significant bid for rights to Twenty20 cricket tournament the Indian Premier League. Facebook made an ultimately unsuccessful offer for digital rights in the Indian subcontinent across the five editions from 2018 to 2022.

The next Premier League rights sales process is expected to open before the end of the year and Woodward said: “Absolutely, I think they (Amazon and Facebook) will enter the mix. Anecdotally, there was incredibly strong interest in the last cycle.

“We are hearing that around the Premier League table and we are also hearing that from a European perspective in terms of interest in the (Uefa) Champions League and Europa rights. I do think we are going to see an increasing engagement from these and we would welcome the interest.”

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore last month said the league would be open to offers for its next set of media rights from online operators such as Amazon and Facebook.

The Premier League entered into the second season of its current set of three-season rights deals with pay-television broadcasters Sky and BT Sport when the 2017-18 campaign kicked off in August.