Will sports help Amazon shake up the video ad market in 2024?

On January 29th, Amazon launched its ad-tier in the US. By automatically converting its Prime Video subscribers, forcing them to pay 3$ more for the ad-free option, Amazon instantaneously became the US streaming giant with the highest number of ad-supported clients, battling for the overall top spot with Hulu, which opted for the same strategy a few years ago. Indeed, we can reasonably assume that at least 65M Prime Video subscribers will decide (voluntarily or not) to stay on the ad-tier proposition. Growing their ad-supported base has become a key objective for the streamers over the last few months, and Netflix’s decisions to phase out its basic tier, and increase the price of remaining ad-free tiers, follow the same goal. Ad-tier and e-commerce, the winning combination? Besides the reach, Amazon has also a giant ace up on its sleeve to appeal to advertisers: its retail and e-commerce business. The data it owns regarding people’s shopping habits or plans represents a tremendous asset to bring to the table, both in terms of targeting and shoppable ads’ possibilities. Indeed, even though the real potential of shoppable ads remains hard to measure, CTV platforms are increasingly investing and believing in this area. We can mention Roku’s deal to bring Shopify to its CTV ecosystem or Amazon’s initiatives during last November's Black Friday NFL game. Amazon, the RSNs’ savior? But Amazon has also identified another way to increase its relevance to advertisers, especially small and local ones. Indeed, Amazon committed to investing $115M in Diamond Sports Group, as part of Diamond’s rescue plan. Under the terms of the agreement, Amazon should become the new streaming destination for the Bally Sports Regional Sports Networks operated by Diamond Sports. Concretely, Amazon Prime Video clients will have the opportunity to access the paying streaming version of local Diamond channels, through the Amazon Channels service. It represents non-nationally broadcast games and content related to more than 40 teams from the NBA, the NHL, and the MLB. Over the last few years, with the pace of cord-cutting accelerating, RSNs, which had been flourishing under the cable bundle model, have been increasingly put under pressure. Without the capacity or the rights (as streaming rights were not part of the broadcast deal with the sports teams) to offer a streaming alternative, that brings in less revenue anyway, RSN’s business model has collapsed. Diamond Sports entered bankruptcy in March 2023. Since then,...

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