For the first time ever, Seattle Sounders fans across the entirety of Washington will have a reliable and reasonably affordable way to watch all non-nationally televised matches.
Amazon Prime will carry all locally broadcast Sounders games, the team announced on Tuesday. Sounder at Heart first reported on this likelihood in March. JOEtv and Q13 will continue to televise those matches, but are only available in Western Washington and requires a third-party service like Locast to watch through a streaming service. The Aug. 26 match against the LA Galaxy will mark the Sounders’ debut on Prime.
“This is a proud day for our club, as we’re now able to bring our fans Sounders FC matches on the world’s premier video streaming service through a company that is synonymous with our city’s culture,” Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer said in a team statement. “On behalf of our organization, I am thrilled to welcome Amazon and Prime Video to the Sounders family.”
The importance of this arrangement was never more apparent than on March 7 when the Sounders match against the Columbus Crew — which was played amid growing concerns over the community spread of COVID-19 and was the team’s lowest attended league game since 2009 — was only available to those who could watch JOEtv. The Sounders had previously promised to have a streaming option available for that match, but had nothing available as details of this deal were still being finalized.
At first glance at least, it looks like the wait was worthwhile.
All Prime subscribers in Washington state will now have access to Sounders matches without having to do anything. New Prime subscribers can get a free 30-day trial and would then be charged $8.99 a month afterwards (affiliate link), for which they’d also receive access to the service’s full streaming library. That’s at least on par with ESPN+’s current price point of $5.99/month and considerably cheaper than YouTube TV’s service, which now costs $64.99/month and is more of a complete cable replacement than an add-on service.
Of the six Sounders games currently on the schedule, four will be available on Prime. The other two matches (Aug. 23 and Aug. 30 on FS1) would still require some sort of cable subscription. It’s unclear how many of the 12 currently unscheduled games would be available on Prime, but it will almost certainly be the majority.
The streaming arrangement will be of particular value to Sounders fans in Washington outside of the broadcast range of JOEtv, a group that has experienced ever-changing viewing options. Early on in the MLS era, games were usually available throughout the state on ROOT, though with increasing regularity only on tape-delay. Last year, matches were available in most of Washington using YouTube TV, but that arrangement ended suddenly at the end of 2019. Until recently, YouTube TV did not include JOEtv as a standalone channel.
Since at least the start of the 2019 season, the Sounders have been blacked out on ESPN+ throughout the state. Although that was under the auspice that all of Washington was considered the Sounders broadcast region, this deal marks the first formalization of that. Notably the deal also covers previous carve outs like Vancouver, Wash., which had been considered part of the Portland Timbers’ broadcast region. Viewers outside of Washington will still be able to watch matches on ESPN+ or on Prime through some sort of creative third-party service.
Also unlike previous arrangements, there’s a much higher degree of stability for fans outside of the Seattle metro area. The Amazon Prime deal will run through at least 2022 and potentially beyond, depending on what happens with the league’s next national broadcast deal.
From Amazon’s perspective, this seems like a relatively cost-effective way to expand its venture into live sports and will be the first team-specific stream Prime will actually air. In addition to carrying some NFL Thursday Night games and some Premier League games in England last year, Prime was also slated to carry 21 locally broadcast New York Yankees games this year. That deal was shelved, though, when Major League Baseball dramatically cut back the season. The dedicated Sounders team page — which will house replays, highlights and interviews — will also be a first for any team on Prime.
“Sounders FC is a fundamental part of our culture here in the Pacific Northwest, and as a club they have always been at the forefront of innovation in professional sports,” Marie Donoghue, VP of Global Sports Video at Amazon said in a statement. “We share this common vision for innovation at Prime Video, and are committed to delighting fans and enhancing the value of a Prime membership through sports, and we believe this deal accomplishes just that.”
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