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Amazon’s Premier League deal shows it’s serious about TV sports. But the TV guys are even more serious, for now.

Amazon just bought the exclusive rights to 20 big-time soccer games. But the TV guys still own everything else.

A soccer player kicks the ball as a ref runs behind him Ian MacNicol / Getty
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Amazon has made an important step into the TV sports business by buying exclusive rights to some of the most valuable TV sports programming in the world.

Amazon just purchased a three-year license to show 20 games a year from the U.K.’s Premier League — the top soccer league in a soccer-crazed nation. Unlike Amazon’s deals to stream NFL games, this isn’t a rebroadcast of games that appear on other outlets: Amazon will be the only place to watch the games in the U.K., period.

This is a big deal, because we’ve been waiting for the big tech companies to step into the sports media business in a big way, and this is the clearest sign yet that Amazon wants to do that.

But! The context is important here: Amazon has only bought 10 percent of the Premier League games available to media companies. Everything else has gone to traditional TV distributors: BT and Sky.

A very rough analog: Imagine that the NFL took some of their least popular Thursday night games and moved them from broadcast TV to Amazon streaming. Big, but not earth-shaking.

We don’t know what Amazon paid for the rights yet, but another package of 20 games that the Premier League just sold went for $120 million over three years. In Amazon terms, that’s zero dollars.

So if you want to, you can view today’s news as a sign that the digital guys are on their way to finally getting their hands on big-time sports — the one thing the TV guys have that the digital guys can’t offer.

Or, you can make the argument that 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch laid out last week at our Code Conference when he noted that Facebook had made a big bid for Indian cricket games last year, but that the Murdoch family won them in the end. For now, when push comes to shove, the traditional TV guys are the ones hanging on to the most valuable properties they have.

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