Optus gets EPL rights – NBN gets more serious, TV under threat

Anthony Caruana
4 November, 2015
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In a massive body blow for Foxtel, Optus has secured the rights to the English Premier League for the next three years. The deal, worth about $50 million, starts from August 2016.

Most Australian TV stations build a significant portion of their programming around sport. For the Seven Network, the tennis and AFL are cornerstones of its programming with the Olympic Games giving it an added boost every few years. The Nine Network has the NRL and summer cricket season with Channel Ten picking up the Big Bash League 20Twenty cricket as well as some motorsport. SBS builds a big part of its year around the Tour de France and football (soccer) coverage.

Foxtel has struggled to gain a strong foothold, but its broad sports coverage, which includes lots of overseas competition, has helped put it into many lounge rooms.

But 2015 has been a watershed for commercial television. Netflix, Stan and Presto have created a seismic shift. Viewers, increasingly, expect on demand services to be part of their daily viewing. And Optus’ raid on the EPL is another nail in the coffin in the existing business model for TV and cable services.

However, for a large part of the population, all these new ways to access content may as well be science fiction.

I’ve written about the digital divide before – and judging by the comments and emails I’ve received it’s clearly a topic Macworld Australia readers care deeply about.

This weekend, I went camping in Victoria’s Gippsland region and again saw the digital divide in all its ‘glory’.

I was only an hour away from a major town, but had no mobile phone coverage at all. To be honest, that was a blessing given I’d just returned from a week in the US and was in dire need of some downtime to recharge my batteries. But the proprietors of the campground had very limited internet access.

By the time they looked up the weather forecast online, the forecast was no longer a forecast! The owners of the campground mentioned that they could not rely on using their internet connection for any kind of real commerce. Even shopping online was practically impossible, let alone running a modern online booking system or any sort of cloud service that would reduce their expenditure.

As companies like Optus and Telstra seek to scoop up the broadcast rights to various events and streaming media services become the main way we access movies and TV shows, reliable, high speed internet access will become, if it’s not already, an essential utility.

There’s been quite a bit of activity with the NBN recently. Well, when we say activity, we really mean finger-pointing and blaming others. Former CEO of NBNCo, Mike Quigley, unloaded on the government for its handling of the project with Karina Keisler, the current communications boss at NBNCo, saying, “Former CEOs should remain just that. They are no longer close to detail.”

My suspicion is the number of people who care deeply about the NBN is actually relatively small. But that will change.

Back in 1992, the Australian Parliament passed anti-siphoning laws that were designed to ensure significant sporting events would remain freely available to most Australians. At the time, this was designed to stop a raid on major events by cable TV companies (while Foxtel dominates today, there were a couple of other players in the market back then with deep pockets and a hunger to boost subscriber numbers and add to their program listings) from making events such as AFL, NRL and others only available for a fee.

Now that the internet is a viable broadcast channel, available to much of the populace, the hold commercial TV has had over this events is weakening.

Optus already has a deal with Cricket Australia and Telstra has deals with the NRL and AFL for streaming access to content. And this year, the Melbourne Cup was available online for the first time.

With a fast, reliable internet connection, would you pay $10 per month for access to favourite sporting code?


3 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. junn says:

    ela re yifto…optus I hope will make it available Telstra should die its a expensive pathetic company TPG rules all the way I hope optus doesn’t screw epl..60 million is nothing compared to overseas providers..aus is a crap country for pay tv we only have foxtel?? fetch tv is the same rubbish as fox..we need more pay tv operators but blame the gov for now allowing anyone here..look at UK US..they crap all over Australia..

  2. Karl says:

    In short, yes I would pay $10 a month to watch the AFL. The only reason I don’t is because I would have to buy an Australian and Global subscription. Plus I would like the ability to watch it on demand. Say I can’t make the start, not after the game has played but while it is playing.

  3. Art says:

    So, you think Optus is your friend?

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