Amazon Says U.S. Open Tennis Coverage Backlash Is Lesson Learned

(Bloomberg) -- The backlash against Inc.’s U.K. coverage of the U.S. Open tennis tournament is a lesson learned for the e-commerce giant as it prepares to broadcast live Premier League soccer next year.

“It was a challenge,” Amazon Prime Video’s European managing director Alex Green said, after more than 80 percent of users gave the service a 1-star rating in August. “We responded very quickly during the tournament, increasing the number of courts we were covering and the number of match replays.”

Amazon Says U.S. Open Tennis Coverage Backlash Is Lesson Learned

Criticism of issues such as poor picture quality and functionality was a setback for Seattle-based Amazon, which has been pushing into live sports as another way to lure subscribers to its Prime membership service. The company’s next big broadcasting test in the U.K. comes in late 2019, when it has the exclusive rights to two rounds of English Premier League soccer, one of which will be played on Boxing Day on Dec. 26.

Green, a former TV executive with BT Group Plc and Virgin Media, said Amazon will apply its experience from the U.S. Open. Amazon has its eye on the U.K.’s millions of soccer fans who have spent 25 years buying subscriptions to watch live games from market leader Sky Plc, which was recently acquired by U.S. cable giant Comcast Corp.

“Bring it on,” Green said, speaking at the Leaders Sports business summit at Stamford Bridge in London, the home ground of Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea Football Club. “We want to be part of everyone’s Christmas here. What better than to sit down on Boxing Day watching the footie with your family?”

Amazon recently broadcast an eight-part documentary about Manchester City -- currently England’s leading soccer club -- charting their title-winning 2017-18 season under Spanish coach Pep Guardiola. Amazon’s other sports offerings include streaming rights to National Football League games and the Association of Tennis Professionals tour.

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