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Fight over streaming rights heat up with James Bond and Indian cricket

Tim Maytom

The battle for video content being waged by the giants of tech seems to be heating up, with Facebook narrowly missing out on streaming rights to Indian cricket, and Apple and Amazon reportedly locked in the fight for distributing the next James Bond films.

According to a new report from The Hollywood Reporter, Apple and Amazon are both vying for distribution rights for the next Bond films following the end of Sony's deal with MGM, which expired after the 2015 release of Spectre.

The tech firms join more traditional Hollywood distribution firms like Sony, Universal, Fox and current leading bidder Warner Bros. in the fight, with sources suggesting that they are being taken so seriously that Warner Bros. is pressing MGM to close the deal.

Apple's bid is being steered by Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, two new executives at the firm who have been given control over its investment in media content. The pair served as co-presidents of Sony Pictures Television before joining Apple, and their jump to the tech firm shocked many when it was announced in June.

Fewer details are available on Amazon's pursuit of the franchise, but the online retail giant has more experience when it comes to these kind of deals. As well as the original content produced as part of its Prime Video service, the firm closed a deal in July to self-distribute its first feature film, Woody Allen's Wonder Wheel. It also recently teamed with Warner Bros. to co-finance an adaptation of Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, which had previously been a Warners-only project.

Landing Bond would be a huge deal for either company. The fight surrounding the deal, coupled with MGM's recent financing problems, suggests that it may not just be distribution rights that are available, but the franchise as a whole. As a huge media brand, insiders estimate that rights to Bond could be worth anywhere from $2bn to $5bn (£1.5bn to £3.8bn).

Meanwhile, Facebook has missed out on a deal to stream five years of games from the Indian Premier League, the most popular cricket league in the world, despite bidding $610m.

The deal went to 21st Century Fox's Star India, which won exclusive streaming rights with a $2.5bn bid. Facebook represented the  second highest bid, and while it was considerably far away from winning the deal, the high bid demonstrates how much its willing to pay for sports streaming.

Facebook's deal for weekly Major League Baseball games has formed one of the key elements of its newly-launched Watch platform, which recently rolled out across the United States. During the company's Q1 earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg said that streaming sports would form "anchor content" in the platform's attempt to be seen as a destination for premium video.