Amazon primed for shock move into Test rugby after opening talks to broadcast Eight Nations tournament that will replace traditional autumn matches this year
- Amazon hope to steal a march on rival broadcasters by hosting Eight Nations
- Tournament will replace traditional autumn internationals for this year
- Sky Sports’ long term deal to show England’s November games is up for renewal
Rugby could make a radical breakaway from traditional broadcast this autumn after Amazon Prime opened talks to show the upcoming Eight Nations tournament.
Sky Sports’s long-term deal for England’s November internationals is up for renewal and The Mail on Sunday understands online retail giant Amazon has registered an interest in securing the rights for the event that is to replace the autumn tours abandoned because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Amazon’s stock hit an all-time high during lockdown due to changes in spending habits and it has the financial clout to outbid Sky Sports, BT Sport and BBC Sport.
Amazon are prepared to take their sports broadcasting into Test Rugby for the Eight Nations
The Six Nations have been put in charge of the tender process and talks remain open with all parties, although there is a feeling that Sky overpaid in its previous deal.
Amazon is interested in a one-off, multi-million-pound deal for November, which coincides with its strategic push to attract new customers before Christmas.
It has already broadcast the Premier League and the US Open but now rugby wants to join the movement after suffering crippling revenue losses due to Covid-19. Industry expert Andy Sutherden told The Mail on Sunday that the move would be a shrewd e-commerce play.
The Eight Nations will replace the autumn internationals which see northern hemisphere sides host southern hemisphere teams, above England faces Australia last November
‘The timing of the autumn rugby fixtures is perfect for Amazon because it’s the prime trading period for black Friday and Christmas,’ said Sutherden, who advises major companies that partner with the likes of the Premier League, IOC, FIFA and World Rugby.
‘There aren’t many prominent sporting events up for grabs in the Q4 of October, November, December and it’s all about getting into the public conscience.
‘Their broadcast strategy is to be very visible to the public when they want to attract the maximum amount of online retailing. They want to build an e-commerce database around sports fans.
‘The data geeks will tell you rugby-watching houses are high net worth families — and that’s a demographic they want to unlock.’
Amazon have already seen a successful foray into hosting Premier League games last season
Rugby’s powerbrokers are conscious of the need to break out of its traditional footholds to help grow the sport. RFU CEO Bill Sweeney has even mooted the idea of putting a microphone on England coach Eddie Jones to increase broadcast appeal.
An alternative would be in-match interviews, which are already a feature in club fixtures. ‘I’d back Amazon to do something wholly different because they won’t want to do a vanilla broadcast,’ added Sutherden. ‘The DNA of their business is all about innovation.’
A Six Nations spokesperson said: ‘Six Nations are busy finalising the arrangements for the autumn competition including broadcasting. An announcement will be made when all elements are finalised.’
England head coach Eddie Jones will act as a consultant for San Diego Legion in USA’s Major League Rugby.
The Rugby Football Union says Jones’ new job at San Diego, who have recruited former England captain Chris Robshaw to their roster for the 2021 and 2022 seasons, is ‘not in conflict with RFU commitments in any way’.