Amazon.com Inc. is exploring an ambitious offensive aimed at infiltrating the last bastion of traditional pay-television: live sports.

In recent months, the e-commerce giant has been in talks for live game rights with heavy-hitters like the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and the National Football League, as well as smaller players like Major League Soccer, the Atlantic Coast Conference, college sports network Campus Insiders, 120 Sports, National Lacrosse League, Major League Lacrosse and World Surf League, the people said.

With at least some leagues, including the NBA, Amazon has floated creating a premium, exclusive sports package that would accompany a Prime membership, though the details are unclear, the people said. A premium sports package could entice new subscribers to Prime and to Amazon’s potential “skinny bundle” of live channels online.

Amazon executives have even canvassed traditional TV networks for game rights they aren’t using. They have asked if Univision Communications Inc. would consider producing and packaging the extra Mexican soccer league games that it has rights to but doesn’t air, one of the people said. And they approached Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN and ONE World Sports, which airs offbeat sports like Russian hockey league matches, to seek leftover, unproduced live games, other people said.

Amazon also is scouting abroad, on the cusp of a global video expansion. It paid $10,000 for a tender document to potentially bid on the popular Indian Premier League cricket games. And it is discussing licensing an international package of NBA games, a person familiar with the talks said.

“My sense is they are interested in anything that might be out there,” said Chad Swofford, vice president of digital for the ACC, a college sports conference.

An Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment on its sports efforts.

Amazon’s potential entry into sports broadcasting could shake up a lucrative business that has long been a stronghold of traditional pay-television. That is in part because “they take such a view of the long game, while near-term financial returns drive the agenda for most companies,” one senior sports executive said. Amazon executives are keenly aware that the premium NFL Sunday Ticket package of afternoon football helped DirecTV acquire subscribers when it launched as a new rival to cable, people familiar with their thinking say.

Amazon even asked to exclusively license the NBA’s League Pass, which offers live out-of-market games, one of the people said, but the NBA demurred, having long preferred selling it through many outlets.


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