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Nine Denies Tech Giants Threaten TV Sports Rights

Nine CEO Hugh Marks is confident free-to-air and pay TV platforms will retain control over sporting rights for the foreseeable future, despite administrators reportedly canvassing social media and other online companies.

AFL executives had recently traveled to the United States to meet with a number of tech firms.

Speaking at a media conference yesterday, Mr Marks said he didn’t think tech companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter would be hoovering up sporting broadcast rights any time soon according to the AFR.

The NRL and AFL, Australia’s marquee sporting codes, have lucrative broadcast rights deals running through to 2022.

While tech companies have previously experimented with sports streaming, Mr Marks thinks its unlikely they’ll pick up the rights traditionally shared between free-to-air stations and Foxtel.

“It’s just not going to happen, not in any near-term horizon,” Mr Marks said.

In the US, Twitter has previously streamed out-of-market day-games of major league baseball, while YouTube’s TV platform has provided a quasi-sports streaming service.

Sports streaming has proven popular, with Fox Sports’ Kayo streaming service picking up more than 200,000 subscribers in less than six months.

But in broadcast, the future is less certain, especially concerning non-marquee sports.

Mr Marks said the “halo effect” used in the past to determine the value of sporting rights is becoming harder to prove, making broadcasters wary to repeat the billion-dollar deals they’ve signed in the past.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Foxtel is now looking at selling off some of the A-League soccer games its pays $57 million a year for to free-to-air networks.

As Nine faces losing its Disney content streaming on Stan, Kayo could also find itself without some American sporting content like NBA basketball, given Disney also owns ESPN.

The launch date of Disney’s streaming service in Australia is yet to be confirmed, but trademarks have been lodged in Australia and are awaiting examination by the government’s intellectual property agency.

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