The Autumn Nations Cup is rugby’s newest tournament and is unusual not just because it might be a one-off, introduced as southern hemisphere teams are unable to travel this year due to COVID-19, but also owing to Amazon’s newfound interest.

The US retail and tech giant has agreed to pay £20m to screen 14 of the 16 matches on Amazon Prime and has signed up Gabby Logan and Mark Durden-Smith as hosts, with expert commentary coming from Dylan Hartley and Sam Warburton, former captains of England and Wales respectively.

As ever, BBC Radio 5 will have live commentary of every match involving the home nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, while free-to-air broadcaster Channel Four will cover a few matches.

But this will be Amazon’s first foray into screening rugby, although it has previously broadcast US Open tennis and two rounds of the English Premier League football tournament, during which it saw a 35% increase in its Prime subscriber base, the Guardian reported.

In many ways, Amazon’s involvement in the new eight-nation rugby tournament is seen as a lifeline for a sport that has been battered financially this year because of restrictions introduced to combat COVID-19.

But some observers doubt the company will stick with the sport over the long-term because that would require building an audience base. Phelan Hill, head of strategy at Nielsen Sports, for example, predicted Amazon would be innovative in their coverage, but is more likely to be interested in driving up Christmas sales.

“The Amazon model so far has not been embedding in a sport and growing an audience. They are opportunist, looking to protect their Prime customer base which is commerce, and I think they are trying to get a buzz from rugby before the Christmas shopping period,” he said.

“My feeling is that they are not in this for the long haul but will be looking for the next opportune moment... what will be interesting in the coming weeks is whether they look to use the matches to drive the sale of merchandise: as you watch a game you tell Alexa to order a jersey.”

However, Richard Cramer, managing partner of Front Row Legal, said that even if Amazon uses the autumn cup as a one-off, its involvement will raise bidding prices in future television negotiations.

“There is a thirst for good quality sport on television and it will be interesting to see the audience Amazon generate outside the countries involved this autumn,” he said.

“The likes of Facebook, Google and Apple will be interested in the viewing figures and the broadcasting scene has changed dramatically in recent years, no longer confined to a few terrestrial stations and Sky,” he added.

Sourced from the Guardian