Roger Federer of Switzerland serves during a championship round match at the U.S. Open in Flushing, New York. (Photographer: Stephen Hilger/Bloomberg)

Viewers Slam Amazon’s U.S. Open Coverage

(Bloomberg) -- It’s not just the players feeling the heat at this year’s U.S. Open Tennis Championships. Amazon.com Inc. has been slammed in the U.K. for its coverage of the tournament, a hiccup for the company’s foray into live sports broadcasting.

More than 80 percent of customers gave the service a 1-star rating, based on almost 700 reviews, complaining about the lack of a replay option, poor picture quality, the inability to record matches and limited choice of courts to watch.

The negative reaction is a setback for Amazon, which is pushing into live sports as another way to lure subscribers to its Prime membership service, which includes video streaming and fast online grocery shopping. It follows similar issues in recent weeks for digital upstarts Eleven Sports and DAZN, which have suffered technical problems streaming live sports in Europe.

“It’s symptomatic of the teething problems we see with the new sports streaming services,” said Richard Broughton, research director at Ampere Analysis in London. “It’s a whole new world for these players.”

Attracting more viewers to its streaming service is important for Amazon, which trails Netflix Inc. in popularity. Seattle-based Amazon in June bought a package of live broadcasting rights for English Premier League soccer starting in 2019, and has the exclusive live rights to the U.S. Open in the U.K. and Ireland for the next five years. Amazon last year streamed National Football League games on Thursday nights and in April, reached an agreement to renew the deal for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

“We are working with customers to address specific issues -- we listen to all customer feedback and are always working to improve all aspects of our service,” an Amazon representative said by email.

Digital players including Amazon Prime Video, Facebook Inc., Eleven Sports and DAZN, a unit of billionaire Len Blavatnik’s Perform Group, have emerged as a new threat to pay-TV companies like Sky Plc and BT Group Plc.

Traditional broadcasters rely on rights to top-flight soccer and other sports to keep subscribers paying for lucrative monthly packages and face the prospect of being priced out of auctions, should streaming services break into the market in a big way.

For now, the digital players have largely been picking off broadcast rights to key competitions in secondary markets, such as Amazon’s U.K. rights to the U.S. Open and Facebook’s rights to show Spanish La Liga soccer in the Indian subcontinent.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.