Amazon’s live football debut showed the future is here… once the picture catches up

Amazon Prime’s Premier League debut wasn’t without its teething problems… but familiar faces help ease transition in battle against free-streaming sites

The future is here. At least it will be once the picture catches up. Bear with us, we’re a minute behind. 

Phones away, we don’t want to know how this ends. So Tuesday night marked the start of Amazon’s December revolution. 

Twenty games a year over three seasons at a cost of £90million. And what better coliseums for the US giant to showcase their love of English football than Selhurst Park and Turf Moor? 

Fans were able to select which match they wanted to watch online with Amazon’s live debut

Star names including Alan Shearer and Roberto Martinez were drafted in as pundits

Star names including Alan Shearer and Roberto Martinez were drafted in as pundits

Selhurst Park beamed graphics promoting Amazon's next package offering on boxing day

Selhurst Park beamed graphics promoting Amazon’s next package offering on boxing day

If this was the soft launch ahead of Wednesday’s bumper offering – and the Boxing Day marathon – then it came with predictable teething problems. 

Buffering, crashing, lagging and jolting graphics that felt more N64 than UHD. As some quick-witted viewers pointed out: Mamadou Sakho would have reached the dressing room in time to see his own sending off. 

Just imagine if VAR had to get the rulers out. Hey, at least it’s free for 30 days. It wasn’t all bad, of course. Many fans praised the quality of the picture and the unprecedented choice on offer. It wouldn’t be football without nuance having a night off. 

The Amazon cameras honed in on Eilidh Barbour, Michael Owen, Eniola Aluko and Lee Dixon

The Amazon cameras honed in on Eilidh Barbour, Michael Owen, Eniola Aluko and Lee Dixon

Fans made their opinions on the new broadcast schedule known with banners in the stands

Fans made their opinions on the new broadcast schedule known with banners in the stands

The chance to watch multiple matches simultaneously is long overdue. But nothing frustrates consumers like needless disruption to their normal service – particularly given how much they pay. 

Just ask Southern Rail. Many issues with the coverage should be ironed out over time. What won’t is the sense of familiarity. On Tuesday night, there was no fanfare from Amazon, no needless self-promotion. And no wonder. 

The broadcast may require 2,000 people but it was largely the same faces, the same voices. Jermaine Jenas, Lee Dixon, Peter Drury, Michael Owen, Gabby Logan, Alan Shearer, and Roberto Martinez saying ‘centre arf’ – we’re only Geoff Shreeves short of a party. 

If this is the start of Amazon’s great stream robbery, it feels very much like an inside job. The football is the same too. After all, you can polish a studio and change the scoreboard but Sakho will still fly in, all arms and legs. 

For all the promises of spider cams and Opta win probabilities, VAR has shown that football fans like to complain about the way things are, but loathe nothing more than needless change. Instead Amazon hope the product sells itself. 

They just want to be the vehicle for change. As Netflix and Spotify have transformed TV and music, so football is ripe for revolution. 

The days of bloated, expensive package television are numbered and Amazon are trying only to marry the sport with its times. After all, for all the talk of broadcasting wars, Sky, BT and Amazon actually have a common enemy: free-streaming sites. 

It’s those fans who refuse to pay extortionate monthly rates that need to be won over. 

In that race, Amazon’s lower prices give them an obvious head start. They may change football for ever. But that doesn’t mean it has to look and sound much different. 

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