Amazon’s Streaming Foray Left Out of Yankees’ Shortened Season

Bookmark Inc. won’t be broadcasting New York Yankees games this season, delaying the e-commerce giant’s foray into local sports streaming.

The company, which became a part-owner of the baseball team’s cable network in a deal last year, had planned to stream 21 Yankees games this season, starting on April 17. The lineup was going to include high-profile matchups, including three against the Boston Red Sox.

But the global pandemic shortened the season from the usual 162 games to just 60. The games scheduled to air on local channel WPIX and other TV broadcasters were going to be simulcast by Amazon. With fewer events in the pipeline, the Yankees own cable channel -- the YES Network -- decided to keep those match-ups for itself.

And under new league rules that limit teams from streaming games that air on regional sports networks, those YES games aren’t available to Amazon.

“Given the unique circumstances surrounding this season, YES Network will televise all New York Yankees games not airing on the national networks,” Amazon said in a statement. “We’ll evaluate our plans at the conclusion of this season.”

While the Amazon broadcasts would have been limited in reach and not exclusive, they were symbolically important. It would have been the company’s first move as a backer of the Yankees’ network and helped bolster efforts to supplement its video-streaming service with live sporting events.

In addition to streaming Thursday-night NFL games, Amazon made an agreement in 2018 to broadcast Premier League soccer matches in the U.K.

The baseball regular-season began Thursday night with the Yankees playing the Washington Nationals, the defending World Series champion. The game attracted an average audience of 4 million viewers, making it the most-watched regular season baseball game on any network since 2011, according to ESPN.

Last August, the Yankees joined forces with Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. and Amazon to buy Walt Disney Co.’s 80% stake in the YES Network in a deal valued at $3.47 billion. The buyers also included RedBird Capital Partners, Blackstone’s Tactical Opportunities business and Mubadala Capital.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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