Why the Premier League needed Amazon Prime

Why the Premier League needed Amazon Prime

After months of behind the scenes negotiations, the final two Premier League television packages for the 2019 deal have been sold. BT Sport increases its number of matches to 52 per season for the three-year deal. The big news is Amazon securing the 20 game package which comes with the caveat of showing every game across two distinct game weeks.

One of those is the first round of midweek fixtures in December. This is Amazon’s warm-up. It’ll give Prime Video the chance to iron out any teething problems and also enable them to gather data on viewing habits. Presumably, the initial ten games will be split across two nights in order to maximise the exposure.

The jewel in the crown of this deal is how Prime will show all the Boxing Day fixtures.

Festive games are a staple of the English diet, it makes fan interaction and acknowledgment of Amazon unavoidable. Many will flock to their local pubs, so how Amazon deal with public licenses is something that will be revealed in time. Amazon’s main intention will be to drive new subscribers to their packed Prime offering. Streaming is just a small part of this but they obviously see the Premier League deal as a decently priced advertising campaign.

It’ll certainly offer better value for money than Jeremy Clarkson’s The Grand Tour. That particular show cost Amazon a neat $250m, with BT paying an extra £90m for the less lucrative 20 game package, it’s safe to assume Prime’s acquisition will exceed the £100m mark.

But it might not be by that much. The reason these deals have taken so long to conclude is because their value is a true unknown quantity for all involved. There’s a chance this style of broadcasting, showing every single match from one round of fixtures, will never work with a UK based audience. From Amazon’s point of view, will enough people stream a potential Wolves v Huddersfield clash to justify the attempted push for subscribers?

The idea of Internet channels is growing in the States. Facebook and YouTube now have subscription models and Amazon have aired sporting events already. The Premier League is right to join an emerging market. More than this: it needs to join the platform and make it a success.

When the last TV deal hit revenue of £8.8bn (once overseas rights had been added), there was a growing feeling the peak return had been hit. The £5.14bn from domestic rights didn’t go back to the fans paying at the turnstiles or into grassroots football, it went into the pockets of agents and inflated the global transfer market.

At the time, BT and Sky were locked in a battle for broadband subscribers and addons like sport packages became a premium. BT had already stolen the UEFA Champions League, they wanted a slice of Premier League pie too. Back then, a customer had to juggle multiple subscriptions, even going to the extent of having two boxes plugged into televisions, one for Sky, the other for BT.

That all changed in December 2017 when the companies announced they had come to a deal, allowing them to sell complete packages with both sets of properties merged. Not only could they sell all-in-one sports deals, BT was even able to offer Sky’s Now TV channels which includes the home for Game of Thrones, Sky Atlantic.

Any doubt the peak of what Sky and BT would pay for Premier League matches was removed. Rather than push the prices up, they could now take a more measured approach. Exclusivity wasn’t quite so exclusive. It was no longer a case of one or the other, they’d formed a necessary alliance of sorts.

They could see what was on the horizon: a new world where Amazon or Netflix or even Twitter and Facebook, could offer live games with lower running costs.

So Sky did what Sky does best and tried to bully its way to the result it wanted.

By not engaging with the Premier League over the prospect of streaming all the matches in a particular round of fixtures, it fronted them out. It risked the proposal of a seven-package system falling by the waste side. Had that occurred in 2018, the chances of a later revival would have been highly unlikely.

The Premier League continued the talks with Amazon because it understands the existing Sky monopoly runs the risk of adhering to the law of diminishing returns.

When the sponsorship model was dropped it was a step toward becoming the football equivalent of the NFL or Major League Baseball so its quite fitting they have hooked up with a company that has a foothold in the American market.

Time will tell if this marks a change in how the UK views domestic football but evidence suggests a paradigm shift is already underway.

Research by SMG Insight found that 54% of millennials have watched an illegal stream and 18 to 24-year-olds are half as likely to subscribe to a paid model. The cheap Prime versus expensive Sky offering could convert some of those into legal consumers. With all of Amazon’s 20 games falling within December, those unsure could take out a one-off monthly subscription of £7.99.

If they watch just two games, it’s still trounces BT and Sky in terms of value for money. If some of those experimenters stick around, boosting Amazon Prime’s subscription numbers, it may make the retail giant – and rivals like Netflix – take a serious look at the other packages next time bidding starts.

Which would be great news for the Premier League. At the moment Sky hold all the cards because the give all the money. If people enjoy Prime’s Boxing Day extravaganza, next time the bespoke TV deals might not be on sale at Boxing Day Sale prices, the traditional packages may climb upward again.

And Sky might not be left holding all the best gifts.

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Men in High Castles

Men in High Castles

Amazon Studios claimed The Man in The High Castle was their most viewed original series during its initial run. Imagine the irony when a man in his Mancunian castle asked me to review the first season. It came with some stipulations. The title couldn’t simply state the name of series and Review; from this I realised The Kinswah Reflective doesn’t want to feature high in search indexes. It couldn’t be assigned a score and I have to avoid spoilers. With the style of Simms View stripped away, here goes.

Being a literary wannabe, I could understand @Kinswah’s interest in this series but I’m more of a moving pictures guy so I can’t tell you if it’s close to Philip K. Dick’s novel. What I can say is the series as a whole follows one rule from English class I remember: it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. This turns out to be a problem.

The beginning starts like an adventure show, with some espionage thrown in. It’s an alternative world. The Nazis won World War II and America has been divided into three zones. The Germans have the East, the Japanese the West, in the middle (for no reason other than to serve the story) the middle is a neutral zone (Star Trek fans stepdown).

The early set-up sees a young man, Joe Blake, grab a van to go on a mission for the resistance in East America, or the Greater Nazi Reich. At the same time we see a young woman called Juliana witness her sister getting knocked off by the Japanese forces on the other side of the country.

Her sis, Trudy, was a resistance worker and had a film reel. We learn that these clips reveal a different world, one where the Germans lost the war. IE, our version of events. She takes it upon herself to deliver the film herself and heads off to complete Trudy’s mission.

See what we have going on here? Joe and Juliana heading to the same destination, and yes, they end up crossing paths. In these early episodes we have action pieces, this isn’t a spoiler, but, if you see a big bridge in one episode, expect someone to fall off it in the next.

Juliana leaving draws her family under suspicion. They are investigated by the Japanese and taken into questioning. In the oppressive world painted here, it’s not a good thing to be under the spotlight.

What it breeds is a doubting of everyone we meet. Enter the middle part of the story.

Juliana and Joe head off on their separate ways and we have the subplots build. An attempt is made on the Crown Prince in the Japanese state, the Germans are a politically divided bunch. Bizarrely Hitler is portrayed as the man maintaining peace. That’s right, the man that committed the genocide of six million Jews is a voice for peace.

His party see the Japanese as weak, they admit a war would finish them off. But for reasons not (initially) clear, Hitler wants to avoid war, even one he should win. The German narrative follows John Smith, a high-ranking American born Nazi officer. He interacts with Joe Blake and Rudolph Wegener.

Wegener is an old friend but a conflicted player in the game. His story makes up for the lag in the middle section. Upon instruction from the resistance, Juliana gets a new job working for Nobusuke Tagomi. He’s the Trade Minister for the Pacific States of America and a pretty nice guy. He fends off the inspector, Kido (not a bad man, just a bit of a jobsworth) and never abuses his position. Being a spiritual type, he’s looking beyond the politics of man.

The final episodes see the action pick up again and it is tense. Juliana and her partner do the work of the resistance which places them in peril. Wegener and John Smith’s ultimate missions are unveiled and we learn who the Man in the High Castle is and why he wants the film reels back. Well, we are left to make some assumptions there.

Studios often get criticised when they interfere with the production of a show or movie but perhaps here Amazon should have had a little word. Normally live action stories omit parts of the source material to the anger of fans. Here, a little leaning in the middle would have worked wonders.

A great ending allows us to overlook this and move on to season two with renewed expectation.

Which E-Reader should you choose?

Which E-Reader should you choose?

At first glance it appears the only logical answer would be to choose a device from the Kindle range. After all, Amazon now reportedly has 70% of the e-book market. Despite this there is still a range of alternatives. The decision now may not hinge on which model has the best technology inside, but the one that comes in at the right price with acceptable functionality.

KindleVoyage

First off the bat it should be made clear that for pure capabilities it seems that the Kindle Voyage has further stretched Amazon’s lead in the tech stakes. It comes with 300dpi and is crammed with lots of Amazon features like X-Ray, Vocabulary Builder, Page Flip (allowing you to skim forward without losing your place), Whispersync and a whole load of other neat features, many of which are present in other Kindle models. The Voyage comes in a hefty price compared to its competition, £229 for the 3G model, which places it as the Apple priced product in the e-reader world.

Book lovers aren’t sheeple like fans of Apple products. Undoubtedly, some will buy the Voyage just to have the latest model; most will look at value for money. The arrival of the Voyage has brought the price of the other E-ink Kindles crashing. The entry model is now £49, the Paperwhite from £99. It’s these that we’ll compare to the competition, namely the Paperwhite.

It comes with a backlight, so bedtime reading is made easy, and has many of the features that the Voyage has, like the Vocabulary Builder. The integration with the Kindle store is seamless, and when navigating through the device’s books, options, highlighting passages, checking words and Wikipedia, it is smooth. Any lag is barely noticeable, and forgivable with the neat presentation. The Paperwhite does everything asked of it and avoids criticism. When you consider the Kindle store rules the marketplace, and the device itself beats the competition point-on-point, it’s the safe choice.

Being tied to the Kindle Store needn’t mean you have to use a Kindle. I would never encourage piracy, authors need all the sales they can get to ensure the future of books, but I believe e-books, like MP3s, should be purchased from anywhere to be used on whatever device we choose. Calibre is an e-book library manager, think iTunes interface without the store, that with certain plug-ins allows DRM to be removed from books. It also converts the type of format, so Kindle’s KF8 can be changed to ePub for use on Nook devices. It’s worth noting to remove the DRM you’ll need to load it from a Kindle device, mobile apps do not count, it has to be from an e-reader.

This brings us to the Barnes and Noble option. The Nook GlowLight offers a backlight like the Kindle Paperwhite. It comes in at £69, making it £30 cheaper, even after Amazon’s price cuts. A side-by-side tech comparison and you’d think the devices were pretty much identical. I initially used the GlowLight after using an old Kindle Keyboard and it felt like a step-up. And for some time there was a feeling it was a more pleasant reading experience than the Paperwhite. Until the gloss started to fade. The backlight technology is better executed on the Kindle and never once on any Kindle device has formatting been an issue. The same can’t be said for the GlowLight, sometimes it feels scrappy around the edges. However, at a third cheaper, it is a strong option, but being trapped in the Nook ecosystem could cost you more in the long run.

Kobo are the other main company out there. They offer a waterproof device that will appeal to those accident prone, bath-time readers or beach-bound holiday types. This feature, the first in the e-reader world, gives the Kobo Aura H2O a unique selling point. It also beats the Paperwhite on resolution and dpi. Again, the main negative will be the exclusion from the Kindle store, although the Kobo store is regularly priced competitively. It’s another device in the Kobo range I’ll draw your gaze to. The Kobo Mini.

Unlike other readers, this one aims small, not trying to sell spec but size. It has an 800MHz processor compared to Kobo Glo’s 1GHz and lower resolution. It is featureless in comparison to the Paperwhite. Yet, none of this matters.  It’s able enough for simply reading books. The latest update has given it a snappier main menu screen. It plays, amongst others, both ePub and mobi formats. And it fits easily in a coat pocket. Whereas one may be too precious with a more expensive e-reader, the Kobo Mini can be taken on train journeys or the daily commute without a care in the world.

Kindle Nook Covers

It’s here where the device holds a special advantage. Mobile reading apps are okay but the average smart phone drains battery fast without spending hours reading on them. The Mini can make any journey or lunch break pass without a fear of losing or damaging hundreds of pounds worth of equipment, whilst saving your phone’s battery. Even on the lowest page refresh rate it never shows its lack of power. Officially priced at £59.99, bargains can be found. I got mine for £30, including £10 store credit. Its discreet size may appeal over larger devices, that invariably you’ll buy a case for (the Nook case looks like a traditional book but is more cumbersome, the Kindle fits snug but the official cover is priced at £25).

Ultimately the main choices come down to: raw power and features, this is the domain of the Kindle Voyage or the Kobo Aura H2O. If you don’t need waterproofing then the undisputed winner is the Voyage. For an overall experience, at a reasonable price, the Paperwhite has no equal. You’ll be using the world’s main e-book library on a device that gives a flawless experience. The Paperwhite is the safe and sound choice. If you care little for the extra features and only need one for daily trips on a tram, train or bus, the small Kobo Mini might be the one for you.