Ama­zon’s de­liv­ery of US Open au­gurs well for foot­ball

The Box­ing Day feast of Premier League games could be a late fes­tive de­light, writes Alan Ty­ers

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Final Whistle -

The US Open ten­nis was watch­able for UK view­ers via Ama­zon Prime. The stream­ing ser­vice will be re­spon­si­ble for one of the most in­trigu­ing de­vel­op­ments in broad­cast sport later this sea­son, when it shows ev­ery Premier League fix­ture from the Box­ing Day round of matches. So what did we learn from the ten­nis cov­er­age, and what can foot­ball fans ex­pect to go along with their fes­tive hang­overs?

Ama­zon Prime is a mem­ber­ship to watch tele­vi­sion and movies and utilise some func­tions on what started out as the Ama­zon on­line shop­ping site. For £7.99 a month, or £79 a year, Prime “mem­bers” get ter­ri­fy­ingly fast de­liv­ery of their stuff. It is an op­tional charge, like in­come tax for

supra­na­tional in­for­ma­tion-age mega­corps. Any­how, I or­dered a fridge ther­mome­ter the other morn­ing and a man had brought it round be­fore teatime on the same day.

The thing started its life in China: all of this for a fiver. One has to won­der what money is be­ing made on that as an op­er­a­tion. The an­swer can only be not a lot, but Jeff Bezos does not seem in want of 50p for the me­ter so one can only con­clude that it is all part of a cun­ning plan.

Mak­ing and sell­ing things ob­vi­ously be­ing so last sea­son, the fu­ture is gath­er­ing data and us­ing it, hope­fully only bet­ter to pre­dict who needs fridge ther­mome­ters and when, but frankly God only knows. All of which is to say that Ama­zon Prime used to be a shop­ping thing, is now an entertainm­ent chan­nel and pre­sum­ably will ul­ti­mately morph into an all-pow­er­ful, all-know­ing sen­tient megabrain some time dur­ing Sh­effield United v Wat­ford on Dec 26 2019.

From the all-pow­er­ful, all-know­ing sen­tient megabrain to “Tiger” Tim Hen­man, one of the pun­dits on Ama­zon’s im­pres­sive cov­er­age of the Amer­i­can ten­nis show­piece. Tim has de­vel­oped the pe­cu­liar habit of star­ing at his fel­low broad­cast­ers while they are talk­ing, blink­ing as if con­fused or hurt, per­haps pin­ing for Sue Barker or thirst­ing for a re­fresh­ing Robin­sons le­mon bar­ley wa­ter.

This dis­trac­tion aside, the breadth of cov­er­age has been unim­peach­able: live and ad­vert-free ac­tion from all the matches with lit­tle build-up, of­ten just a sin­gle fixed cam­era on the court for a bit be­fore the ten­nis be­gins. This lo-fi ap­proach can be oddly sooth­ing, call­ing to mind the BBC red but­ton multi-ball dur­ing the Olympics, or the true

Ci­ti­zen Kane of the genre, the Som­er­set County Cricket Club cov­er­age of their cham­pi­onship fix­tures, which af­fords the viewer the chance to spend huge ex­panses of time gaz­ing at a Taunton grounds­man brush­ing the Cider­abad pitch.

For the big­ger matches, Ama­zon has given a more tra­di­tional pun­dits-and-com­men­ta­tors ap­proach. Jim Courier and Annabel Croft we al­ready knew were good; Daniela Han­tu­chova has been more than de­cent.

Cather­ine Whi­taker is an ex­cel­lent an­chor and pun­dits have in­cluded Greg Rused­ski and Martina Navratilov­a. The cov­er­age is absent of that sort of twee chum­mi­ness that can grate with the BBC Wim­ble­don fort­night, which might partly be down to the dif­fer­ing na­ture of the US Open to Tim­ble­don but is also an en­cour­ag­ing augur for foot­ball fans that Ama­zon’s cov­er­age of their sport will not be too heav­ily re­liant on the same old faces say­ing the same old things.

Pro­gramme mak­ers at Ama­zon have ex­pressed ad­mi­ra­tion for Sky Sports’ Red­zone cov­er­age of the NFL: the su­perb ac­tion and news show that takes view­ers to key mo­ments of each of the si­mul­ta­ne­ous games, a sort of Soc­cer Satur­day where you get to watch the ac­tual ac­tion rather than lis­ten­ing to Paul Mer­son shout­ing: “He’s hit the beans on toast, Jeff!”

That could be an ex­cit­ing and novel way to ex­pe­ri­ence tele­vised foot­ball. And the ex­cel­lent, snappy but not con­text-free high­lights of the ten­nis, with Mar­cus Buck­land coax­ing in­sights out of Blinkin’ Tim atop a New York gantry, sug­gests that they might do that side of foot­ball cov­er­age smartly, too.

Foot­ball fans fear change and have ev­ery right to be dis­grun­tled that they will have to fork out for an­other ser­vice on top of BT and Sky if they wish to be Premier League com­pletists this term, but the form book as sug­gested by the last fort­night’s ten­nis cov­er­age, at least, is cause for op­ti­mism.

The twee chum­mi­ness that can grate at Wim­ble­don is absent

Net ben­e­fits: Cather­ine Whi­taker was an ex­cel­lent an­chor of Ama­zon Prime’s US Open cov­er­age

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