Amazon has been in discussions with Tennis Channel for more than a year about a distribution deal that would bring the network’s live programming to the e-commerce player’s Prime video service, according to Tennis Channel CEO Ken Solomon — part of a bigger effort by Amazon to acquire a range of live sports content, Bloomberg reported Friday.
“Amazon has been leaning forward on sports,” Solomon said in an interview with Bloomberg. “They want to be a new-age (multiple system operator),” he added, using industry jargon for cable providers.
Tennis Channel, which Sinclair Broadcast acquired for $350 million in January, has U.S. broadcast rights for events including the the French Open and Australian Open (with ESPN the live rights-holder for the U.S. Open and Wimbledon).
Amazon and Tennis Channel reps did not respond to requests for comment.
More broadly, Amazon is interested in acquiring streaming rights to sports “with global appeal,” including golf, soccer, rugby and auto racing, according to Bloomberg report, citing anonymous sources. While the company also would want to offer the most popular sports programming in the U.S., like NBA and MLB games, both TV and digital rights for the major American leagues are locked up for several years.
Amazon has made recent hires reflecting its interest in sports content specifically. Earlier this year, Amazon hired James DeLorenzo, formerly VP and GM, of Sports Illustrated Digital, as head of sports video channels, as well as Charlie Neiman, formerly YouTube’s head of sports partnerships and business development, as a business development exec, the Bloomberg report noted.
Nearly three years ago, Amazon was reported to be investigating an over-the-top pay-TV package. At the time, the company denied it had any plans to license television channels or offer a pay-TV service.
In December 2015, Amazon unveiled its Streaming Partners Program, which allows Prime members to subscribe to individual streaming services including those from Showtime, Starz, NBCUniversal’s Seeso, Warner Bros.’ DramaFever and Acorn TV.