Amazon has been flooded with so many complaints about its coverage of the US Open that it stopped disgruntled tennis fans from posting more bad reviews.
The service is getting slammed with one-star reviews from Prime subscribers complaining about poor picture quality and the inability to record and fully rewind matches.
“There is no replay option, no ability to record [and] the picture quality is very poor,” said one unhappy tennis fan. “It’s like going back in time 25 years.”
This is just terrible, Babbles
Others urged Amazon to “give tennis back to Sky and Eurosport”, which both used to broadcast the US Open in the UK before Amazon snapped up the exclusive rights.
“Hopeless doesn’t describe it,” said another. “A complete embarrassment.”
Amazon says it is addressing specific issues and is “always working to improve all aspects of our service.”
The internet giant is showing the US Open for the first time in the UK and Ireland but, judging by the reception from tennis fans, it is not going down well.
With the Flushing Meadows tournament in its third day, there was some noticeable improvement but the inability to record and fully rewind matches was cited as a main reason for bad ratings, with 92% of customer reviews giving the highlights show just one-star.
“This is just terrible,” said one customer, named Babbles. “A huge backwards step for tennis,” another added. A third reviewer cited a famous John McEnroe quote when they said: “You cannot be serious.”
Amazon secured the UK television rights to the US Open earlier this year in a deal said to be worth £30 million.
It is part of a big move into sports coverage that saw the company bag Premier League rights in June, but the poor reviews demonstrate that live sports coverage is not so easy to pull off, despite Amazon setting up a studio at Flushing Meadows and hiring former pros including Jim Courier to present its coverage.
An Amazon spokeswoman said: “We are working with customers to address specific issues — we listen to all customer feedback and are always working to improve all aspects of our service.”
Perhaps not coincidentally, when Amazon’s ratings capability was suspended, they called it an IT glitch.
“This product currently has limitations on submitting reviews. There can be a number of reasons for this, including unusual reviewing activity,” a warning message said.
“We are working with customers to address specific issues – we listen to all customer feedback and are always working to improve all aspects of our service,” Amazon.co.uk said in a media statement.
Sky Sports dropped its coverage of the US Open in 2016 after 25 years, which it typically licensed from Eurosport.
At the same time, Eurosport and the USTA have a five-year deal to continue to broadcast the US Open across Europe until 2022, with the TV rights in the UK and Ireland specifically exempted from the contract.
That left an opening for Amazon Prime to up-end the sports rights landscape with its deal – a chance it now seems to be in danger of blowing.
The backlash against its coverage demonstrates the steep learning curve Prime is facing as it prepares to take on exclusive UK coverage of the ATP men’s tennis tour and a high-profile deal to be the first streaming company to exclusively air Premier League matches next year.
“It’s symptomatic of the teething problems we see with the new sports streaming services,” said Richard Broughton, research director at Ampere Analysis in London. “It’s a whole new world for these players.”
The Prime coverage has garnered some praise for quality of its colour commentators and anchors, which include former tennis stars Greg Rusedski and Annabel Croft.
“Quality of commentary and pundits very knowledgeable,” wrote one reviewer.
The USTA has yet comment on the situation.
ESPN has the exclusive broadcast rights for the US Open in the United States.