My Amazon Prime subscription was worked hard over December. I blitzed the Christmas shopping, got stuck into some Boxing Day sales and in the space of 48 hours between Christmas and New Year ended up making three separate orders in an embarrassing attempt to source the correct screws for a TV mount.
If you’ll allow me one more paragraph of Partridge-isms, when I tried to return the screws I didn’t need Amazon refunded me and told me to just keep the spares. So, if anyone needs a set of M8 screws, washers and spaces, you know where I am.
To be clear, this isn’t an advert, just enthusiasm. Amazon sell pretty much everything imaginable but it was their live Premier League football coverage that most interested me in December. Steaming as many matches as my marriage would allow I kicked off with the excellent Luton 3-4 Arsenal on the 5th. Straight away I noticed a quirkiness to Amazon’s approach, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
If I’m not physically at a game I watch a lot of my football on apps: phone, tablet, smart TV and Prime’s streaming quality feels far superior to TNT, SkyGo and Now TV. Delay is minor compared to the other broadcasters and the picture quality is way better, especially compared to SkyGo’s which at times looks like I’m trying to play FIFA ‘98 Road To The World Cup on a SEGA Mega Drive. Sorry Sky.
A lot of modern TV remotes have dedicated Amazon buttons now that fire up Prime immediately. Within two touches of a button crystal clear Premier League football was on my television throughtout December. I also enjoyed the ability to scrub back and forward on the timeline while the game is live.
There are some nice features available via Prime as well, like turning off the commentary so you can only hear the crowd. I’m fairly ambivalent about commentators, but I know many aren’t, so this is perfect for antagonistic armchair supporters.
But there’s no need to mute the comms when Ally McCoist is on the mic (“by the way”). Amazon had him for a number of games, with Ally it’s like watching a match with your best mate in the pub, McCoist is personable, honest, knowledgeable and the Scottish accent is really built for football.
Amazon’s build up, half-time analysis and full-time analysis is more geared towards the teams actually playing. Now that might sound obvious, but while I was watching Liverpool vs Newcastle on New Years’ Day via Sky I noticed that barely a word of the half-time analysis was devoted to Newcastle.
Instead, an ex-Liverpool player focused entirely on Liverpool’s failed attempts to score. Barely a word for Newcastle’s successful attempts to keep the ball out of the net, or put it in Liverpool’s which they actually did in the first half via a counter attack only for a marginal VAR call that disallowed it.
I do enjoy Sky’s Monday Night football build up which tends to focus on the weekend talking points, but often their Super Sunday build-ups ‘big six’ heavy.
You’ll never enjoy or agree on everything broadcast talent says or does, but Prime picked their presenters, pundits and commentators cleverly: Jeff Stelling, Dan Walker, Jim Rosenthal and Gabby Logan – four and experienced brilliant presenters. Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry and Roberto Martinez were good picks too, big names who speak well. Jon Champion, Clive Tyldseley, Guy Mowbray as commentators bring a familiarity and masses of experience on the mic.
I noticed that Amazon also took to announcing who would be on ‘the bill’ before games via social media. Another small touch, but helpful – pundit line-ups can influence which game you watch, especially when there are multiple games available.
Maybe Amazon have thrown a lot of money at a small number of matches (20) and this is the reason for a heightened quality? I’m not sure it’s that simple. My feeling is that Amazon’s strong coverage is more down to simple, joined-up, considered thinking by people who know the game, know broadcasting and know their audience.
Before Luton vs Arsenal, Gunners Sporting Director Edu answered questions from the pundit panel – amazing access. Managers speaking pre-game with the panel too was a welcome addition, other broadcasters pre-game manager chats are way more two-dimensional, formal and often dull. The managers can’t be bothered, and the viewers don’t get much out of it. Having a boss on the pitch with a mic in their hand seemed to bring them out of their shell a bit more and added value.
Then there was the lovely addition of those little substitute dashes above the team names. In the era of five substitutions it’s not rocket science, but little things can go a long way. Staggering the kick offs on Boxing Day was welcome too. Boxing Day is a rare day of the year when I might actually have time to watch four back to back games while stuffing my face with Celebrations.
Two boring games? (Bournemouth vs Fulham, Sheffield United vs Luton) not a problem. Put them both at 3pm and let the viewer decide which one they want to watch. That’s exactly what Amazon did.
On Wednesday 6 December they showed four games, all at 7.30pm. It’s a separate conversation, but I’m of the opinion that fans in England should be able to watch any game they want on TV without having to fire up a VPN. Maybe you can show all the games and not cause swathes of empty seats in stadiums.
But now the cold water plunge of January is here and Amazon aren’t set to air any games beyond 2025 when the broadcasting deal renews without them. That’s a shame, but I hope the other broadcasters have learned from some of the successes.
Lived it. Loved it. Best £8.99 I spent in 2023.
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