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Online retailer and streaming video provider Amazon reportedly is talking with professional and college sports leagues in an attempt to put together a live sports streaming offering.

The National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer are among pro leagues Amazon has met with to talk about broadcast rights, according to a report Monday in The Wall Street Journal.

Amazon is looking to create a premium sports programming package for its Prime subscribers, people familiar with the situation told The Journal. Among the programming, Amazon sought to get an exclusive deal for its NBA League Pass, which offers out-of-market games. But the NBA preferred its current method, which packages games via multiple outlets, a person told the Journal.

Amazon has shown interest in live NFL games in recent years, a person familiar with the discussions told USA TODAY. The person would not provide their name because they were not able to comment publicly on the issue.

Sports leagues have expanded their online offerings recently with the NFL streaming games on Yahoo and Twitter. Twitter also has deals to begin streaming Major League Baseball and National Hockey League games.

"The NFL has already dabbled with Yahoo and Twitter -- why not Amazon?" said Bruce Leichtman, president of the Leichtman Research Group. Even if Amazon begins to stream out-of-market pro games, he said, "I don't think that there would be any big blow to pay-TV coming from Amazon via live sports in the near future."

Live sports has been one of the bulwarks protecting against cord cutting. Pay-TV providers have lost about 755,000 subscribers over the past year, compared to a loss of about 445,000 the previous year, according to Leichtman Research Group. Overall, about 82% of U.S. homes with TVs subscribe to pay TV, down from 87% in 2011 but similar to the 82% of subscribing homes in 2005, the research firm says.

A move to stream sports makes sense, says Joel Espelien, senior analyst with The Diffusion Group. "Amazon is looking for content that will drive subscription revenue," he said.

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November 22, 2016


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