Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus is interviewed for Amazon Prime Video by Gabriel Clarke (right) during the Premier League match at Turf Moor, Burnley.
Martin Rickett – PA Images | PA Images | Getty Images
Amazon’s foray into soccer broadcasting in the U.K. has received a mixed response with praise for technological innovation counterbalanced by complaints over streaming issues.
In June 2018, Amazon won the rights to show 20 English Premier League (EPL) matches per season from 2019/20. The EPL claims to be the most watched sports league in the world, with a potential audience of 4.7 billion people.
All 20 of Amazon’s games are being shown on its Prime Video service and will be concentrated into two game weeks — from December 3 to 5 and December 26 to 27.
Tuesday night’s fixtures between Burnley and Manchester City, and Crystal Palace versus Bournemouth, marked Amazon’s first official entry into the prized EPL. And they were met with a mixed response.
The biggest complaint appeared to be streaming issues. The U.K.’s Independent newspaper noted “buffering at inopportune times” and “commentary out of sync.” The newspaper added that the delay to the feed was often up to a minute behind the action, which could annoy viewers who were exposed to two different streams or goal notifications on their smartphones.
On Tuesday night, Amazon simulcast two matches and the Independent feared that Wednesday night’s six-match offering could cause real problems. Some fans took to Twitter to express their unhappiness.
Others were happier with the service, praising its live data which allows viewers to check team line-ups or replay game highlights. Amazon has also offered the option for fans to listen without commentary but still hear the stadium noise. That option appeared to please several fans.
In the early 1990s, Sky revolutionized English soccer coverage with brash on-screen graphics and attempts to use technology to analyze games. And in 2013, BT Sport entered the EPL fray with a big studio, more technical analysis, and big money spent on high-profile commentators.
The Guardian newspaper said Wednesday that Amazon appeared to have gone for a much less flashy debut.
“The branding was extremely subtle, the studio sparse and largely undecorated, the Fifa 20-esque graphics inoffensively styled, the introductions straight to the point,” said reviewer Jonathan Liew before adding, “The entire operation appeared to have been calibrated to cause as few qualms as possible.”
Amazon has promoted the matches as “free-to-air,” which is true in the sense that there is a 30 day-trial available. Beyond that, U.K.-based soccer fans will pay the Prime membership fee of £7.99 per month, or an annual fee of £79 ($103).
CNBC approached Amazon for comment but had not received any reply by the time of publication.
Disclosure: Comcast, which owns CNBC parent NBCUniversal, is the owner of Sky.