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Amazon’s $115M Local Sports Rescue Mission

andy jassy
While companies like Disney, Fanatics, and others contemplated becoming more involved in local streaming, Amazon gained a first-mover advantage. Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
John Ourand
March 4, 2024

If Amazon was serious about getting into the local sports business, it had a lot of options: The company could have waited for the bankrupt Diamond Sports to go belly-up before attempting to secure its local rights on the cheap, or it could have worked directly with the NBA and NHL to secure local streaming rights. Even MLB commissioner Rob Manfred appears more likely to do a deal directly with Amazon than by using Diamond Sports as a middleman. Instead, of course, Amazon wound up swooping in with a $115 million lifeline investment in Diamond Sports back in January—a move that still has a lot of the industry’s top executives scratching their heads. Even if $115 million is pocket change for Amazon, why would the company pursue a deal that props up an old and creaky legacy cable business? Amazon’s Andy Jassy is not known for doing stupid deals.

Ironically, it’s that old-school, legacy R.S.N. business—or, more specifically, the way that it’s structured—that most interested Amazon. Local sports rights are still valuable, even as the R.S.N. business model remains in crisis. And while there’s not a lot of money in local sports streaming right now, Amazon has long been a believer. The company owns 15 percent of YES Network and carries a package of Yankee games locally. This rescue financing represents an escalation of the thesis.