In the past fortnight Australia has seen first a huge – and then an enormous – sum of money agreed for the TV rights of football codes. Rupert’s war with Nine is good for footy, and for pubs.
While the code preference of a venue is largely dictated by which State it inhabits, existing arrangements in both AFL and NRL mean that choices between the two amount to little more than nuisance factor in some areas, when League games often appear only on Gem, which isn’t provided by the Fox Sports feed.
However, Nine’s recent scoop of the TV rights for NRL until 2020, and the disgruntlement that has caused in the Murdoch camp, could see the landscape change considerably.
“For many NRL-focused venues, it is a good thing,” says Game On Live Sports director, Alex Antoniades.
“NRL-based pubs and bars that do not pay for subscription TV will be able to show up to four NRL matches weekly.”
The news emerged that Channel Nine, in a pre-emptive strike to News Corp’s attempt buy a 15 per cent stake in rival Channel 10, secured a deal with the NRL for $925 million that allows it to broadcast a game on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Currently Fox Sports broadcasts all games, with Nine getting only three. Under the new arrangement, the NRL is free to sell the simulcast rights, presumably to Foxtel, but so is Nine – undermining News Corp’s previous advantage.
Rupert Murdoch is said to be so angry at the move, he made a personal appearance and championed the “Australian code” as News announced the biggest deal in Australian sports history – paying $2.5 billion for the broadcast rights of the AFL until 2022. He has even threatened to turn league-loving rags The Daily Telegraph and The Courier Mail into mouthpieces for AFL.
“I think this battle will definitely help the cause to expand AFL into NSW and Queensland,” continues Antoniades. “The mere comparison of the broadcast deals would have to make a lot of die-hard NRL venues and supporters think, ‘Wow, AFL really is a popular game’.”
But Antoniades says perhaps the biggest elephant in the sports room is the emergence of live streaming into the equation.
“This whole battle of the codes is more a battle of the future direction of broadcasting.
“Think Netflix for live sport.
“Currently, a large number of live games are only available via live streaming; BEIN sports is a prime example. With NRL, all games are available via Telstra live streaming.
“The content and quality are effectively the same. The fact is, live sport can be delivered to consumers without the infrastructure or the decoders – all you need is an internet connection.
“Live streaming can now be accessed smoothly from most areas in Australia. It has the potential to completely change the way we access and watch live sport, and I think by 2018 live streaming will be well adopted.
“Until now, Broadcasters have only had to compete with each other in Australia, but with live streaming, competition with be a lot fiercer. This will drive down the costs for pubs.”