Spark's deal to secure exclusive rights to the next three seasons of the English Premier League (EPL) is the latest announcement in a hastening global shift of live sport from TV to streaming services.

Yesterday, at the same time Spark was making its announcement, Facebook told Indian sub-continent fans that the next three seasons of the Spanish football's La Liga would be free on the social network.

Earlier this year, Amazon won rights to show 20 English Premier League matches a season from 2019 in Britain, breaking the stranglehold of Sky and BT on the nation's most popular sport.

Also on Tuesday, Amazon and Twitter told the Bloomberg Players Technology summit in San Francisco they were exploring ways to bring more sports content to customers.


Both companies say their global reach made them good partners for professional leagues such as the NBA and NFL that are trying to reach fans who more often are watching sports on smartphones.

Facebook's football move into the non-core markets of India, Pakista, Sri Lanka and neighbouring countries, dovetails with La Liga's efforts to broaden its reach.

"We are really happy to be on a free to air service in such an important territory as the Indian sub-continent," Alfredo Bermejo, La Liga's head of digital strategy, told Reuters.

"One of our goals for the last two years has been to offer content to the widest audience possible, so partnering with free platforms like Facebook, which has 270 million users in India, is key to us."

Facebook and La Liga declined to give financial details of the deal which sees the social network giant unseat Sony Pictures Network as the rights holder in the region.

Sony paid a reported €28m ($NZ43m) for the right to broadcast La Liga between 2014 and 2018.

Facebook began venturing into sports streaming in 2017 by broadcasting weekly Major League Baseball games and earlier this month agreed a deal with broadcaster Eleven Sports innseveral international territories to show one La Liga and one Serie A game per week on its platform.

The deal with La Liga is the latest statement of the growing interest of tech groups in showing sports in order to keep young viewers on their platforms.


In golf last weekend's US PGA the full tournament was available only on Eleven Sports, with the first two rounds also on Facebook.

Peter Hutton, Facebook's Director of Global Live Sports, however, described the deal with La Liga as an experiment, saying that while the company has other agreements in the works, he ruled out an immediate land grab of rights deals in sport.

"Were looking at a few other deals that are quite close to completion but this is not about going out and buying a huge amount of content worldwide," he told Reuters.

"Were looking at specific rights in specific markets and to try to learn from data from those experiences and work out what the next step is. If you rush into too many deals at once, you can't do it properly."

"Sports leagues get it," Richard Au, Amazon's director of Prime Video Channels told the Bloomberg summit. "They need to make sure the product is relevant across age groups and demographics."

Amazon is experimenting with notifications to mobile devices about live sports events, which differentiates sports from on-demand movies and shows, Au said.

In its push for video content, the Seattle-based e-commerce giant has purchased the streaming rights to NFL games, Premier League soccer matches and the Association of Tennis Professionals tour.

And it broadcast games of the NBA's minor league G teams on its Twitch service. San Francisco-based Twitter also has expanded its effort in live video, and had the exclusive rights to stream the NFL's Thursday Night Football games during the 2016 season.

Twitter works closely with the NBA, which has been at the forefront of embracing new ways of reaching audiences, said Laura Froelich, the social media platform's head of U.S.
Content Partnerships.

The network helps people keep up with the action, watch the games and participate in conversations wherever they are, she said. Tweets and discussions about the NBA were busier in the preseason than during the finals, she said.

"The NBA has been one of our most innovative partners," she said. "Whenever we have something new, they want to be the first to try it."

In addition to the Premier League, Spark has will stream Manchester United TV, a channel owned an operated by the football club and will be offered on a subscription basis over Spark's sport platform, which will launch by early 2019.

The cost of viewing the content is yet to be announced, with Spark saying details will be released closer to launch.

The New Zealand rights for 2016-2019 were held by beIN sports, a subsidiary of the Al Jazeera network.

Spark managing director Simon Moutter said the telco plans to play a key role in shifting the way Kiwis access their sports content.

"We are setting out to transform the way sport is distributed and viewed in New Zealand - in the same way general entertainment viewing has been transformed by the likes of Lightbox, Netflix and YouTube," he said.

Taking charge of the rollout of the new service is newly appointed head of Spark Sport Jeff Latch, who previously served as a senior executive at TVNZ.

Speaking about Spark's move into sports media, Latch said he believed Spark would be able to deliver a good experience to customers.

"We're confident once Kiwis experience sports streaming they'll never go back to traditional television viewing alone."

The Premier League deal, running from August 2019 to May 2022, adds to Spark's growing sports portfolio, which already includes the Rugby World Cup 2019 and Women's Rugby World Cup 2021.

Spark has a history with the Premier League, having partnered with Coliseum Sports Media (first as marketing partner and then as joint venture partner) to claim the rights between 2013 and 2016.

A successor of Coliseum now livestreams rugby to subscribers throughout Asia and South-East Asia on the rugbypass website

- with Washington Post.