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Free To Air TV Network Greed & Hatred Of Foxtel Could Hurt Politicians In The Long Run

Free to air TV network greed, could have a major impact on both grass root sport in Australia, and the quality of AFL and NRL broadcast coverage in the future if they get their way in convincing federal politicians,  to back their latest attempts at taking out their competition, as their revenues dwindle and they have to face the realisation that when it comes to future sports rights negotiations they will not have the money to pay for both free to air and streaming rights based on past rights.

Sports streaming is today delivering millions of dollars into the budgets of struggling sports clubs across Australia, because organisations such as Foxtel Group and News Corp, are prepared to open their cheque books to get the rights.

Free to air TV networks realise that consumers are not viewing their programs anymore, instead they are paying to watch streamed content as opposed to free content or even free sport when it’s offered by the networks who are now looking to politicians to give them a leg up.

All of a sudden streamed sport is the enemy of TV networks that is until they have control of the streamed content,  which is what they are lobbying politicians to deliver in their latest pitch to Federal politicians, who appear to have not woken up to the potential wrath that sports club members could deliver when they realise the con that Free TV to air TV networks are pitching.

As one observer said “Nothing Is Free”.

Currently TV networks in Australia  are struggling with the likes of the Nine Network, Seven and Ten Network whose parent Company is up for sale, now pitching the Federal Labor Government to step in and help them basically “nobble” Foxtel, as one executive put it.

They are also trying to throw into the mix foreign based networks such as Google, Apple, Amazon with their Prime Video and Netflix along with Paramount + the owners of the struggling Ten Network as a threat to sports coverage in Australia when in reality there is little if any threat from overseas streaming networks.

Pitching against so called foreign operators is a smoke screen, with their real focus being archrival Foxtel, who puts sports content to air in 4K Ultra High Definition vs free to air TV networks high definition who are also reliant on commercials every five minutes to survive Vs Foxtel’s commercials in the middle and at the end of games.

The free to air networks know that both the AFL and NRL sent heavyweight teams to the USA, to meet one on one with the major global streaming networks during the last rounds of negotiations, and came back empty handed for the simple reason that AFL and NRL are niche Australian sports that don’t rate outside of Australia.

Fox Sport in the USA backed NRL with the Las Vegas opening season games broadcast live in the USA, earlier this year when it came to ratings and a return on investment the broadcasts were a total failure.

Weaken Foxtel, and with the overseas streaming Companies showing little if any interest in Australian sports, Free to Air TV via their political lobbying efforts, have suddenly put themselves in a position to reduce the amount of money they would have to fork out for both free to air and sports streaming rights.

For decades the News Corp controlled Foxtel, has put up tens of millions of dollars up to secure the rights to sport in Australia, with the money then being used by sports codes including AFL, NRL Basketball and Netball administrators to fund grass root sport in Australia with the full backing of News Corp who promote local and State sports bodies with extensive coverage via their local news network.

Lobby group Free TV know that their clients are running out of revenue to fund sport broadcasting in the future, and are now lobbying politicians to eliminate consumer choice when it comes to which sports broadcasts consumer want to watch in the future.

What the TV networks really want is for the current Federal Labor Government, to step into the commercial world to prop up their networks, against streaming networks that former free to air viewers are flocking to in the hundreds of thousands and are quite prepared to pay for.

A lack of investment in 4K broadcasting coupled with the lack of revenue to support a pitch for both the streaming and free to air rights has led to a desperation lobbying campaign by Free TV who are determined to try and hurt the Foxtel Group whose products consumers are paying millions to access with Kayo numbers swelling to close to 1.5 million this year.

Foxtel are also witnessing record viewing numbers for NRL and AFL games.

At the weekend Foxtel Group chief executive Patrick Delany renewed calls for streaming platforms to be able to bid for sport broadcasting rights alongside free-to-air networks, because if they don’t, grass root sport could facing a problem with politicians in the firing line for the evaporation of sports investment in Australia by codes who will be the big losers if Free TV have their way.

The plea comes amid the federal government’s proposed changes to the anti-siphoning bill, which would see streaming services join pay television in being locked out of bidding for major sporting events.

Mr Delany argued the amendments meant free-to-air networks (FTAs) received first dibs on sports at the expense of broadcast revenue and viewership.

“As we have long maintained, there should be a pathway for local streaming services, including the FTA networks, to bid for listed sport and provide it free to audiences,” he told the Australian.

“We continue to believe that the ‘free-to-view model’ in relation to listed sports would represent the best model for both Australian viewers and the sporting codes.”

Under the current legislation, pay television networks cannot purchase broadcasting rights for sporting events of “national importance and cultural significance” unless FTAs have already rejected the rights.

But as free-to-air broadcast television declines, Mr Delany said the government should embrace streaming platforms’ “free-to-view” model if they wanted sport to remain accessible for all, as shown by the success of the Super Netball competition.

“Super Netball is a great example of a sporting competition which is not on the anti-siphoning list which is broadcast via a streaming service, Kayo Sports and Fox Sports, and key matches are still made available for free on Kayo Freebies for non-paying customers,” Mr Delany said.

“In future reviews of the legislation, we are hopeful that free streaming will satisfy the original intention of the anti-siphoning scheme. However, this must be coupled with a reduction in the list that ensures only those events that are truly of national importance and cultural significance remain on the list.”

Netball Australia executive general manager, Spencer Retallack, told the News Corp owned Australian that sporting codes needed streaming services, pointing out that Super Netball was enjoying its biggest season in viewing numbers through Kayo Freebies.

“Broadcast revenue is the single most important revenue stream for sport, and we need to make sure there is competitiveness in the market,” Mr Retallack said.

“We firmly believe keeping pace with consumption habits and putting choice in front of consumers is important.”

The amended anti-siphoning bill is now before the Senate.

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