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Why Nine Entertainment & Stan Want A Monopoly When It Comes To Sports Streaming

OPINION: Mike Sneesby desperately wants a free TV and streaming monopoly, with the CEO of the struggling Nine Entertainment, now trying to get the Federal Government to give him what he wants.

He knows that his future and that of the network hinges on sport especially when it comes to NRL or AFL rights with the networks revenues set to take another hit in coming weeks.

Back in February 2024 as archrival Foxtel were announcing an increase in streaming subscribers, Nine Entertainment was reporting a 15% dip in earnings and 21% profit drop for the first half of FY24, with the company noting “inflation, increased interest rates and cost-of-living pressures weighing on consumer and business sentiment”.

Now Sneesby wants live games available on both Stan which is owned by Nine Entertainment and their free to air network which consumers are deserting in droves, and he is quite prepared to flex his media muscle spanning the Australian Financial Review, Sydney Morning Herald, and the Age to put pressure on the Federal Labor Government to get what he wants and that includes paying a high price for future sports streaming on Stan if he gets his own way.

His attempt to turn Rugby Union on Stan and the Nine Network, into a competitor to NRL and AFL on Foxtel has been a total flop to the extent that the network is looking to pay a significantly reduced rights fee next time rounds because there is no competition for the rights.

Currently Foxtel has the streaming rights to both AFL and NRL, while the Nine Network has the right to free to air or Linear TV which consumers are deserting in droves for the likes of Kayo, Foxtel and now Hubbl, if direct sales of the brand new streaming box are anything to go by.

This week Sneesby’s network was a key part of the chorus along with Ten, and the Seven network who were spinning a yarn to the Federal Government in an effort to get them to amend its proposed changes to the anti-siphoning Bill to better reflect how people actually watch content in 2024.

Basically, they were not happy with the noise coming out of Canberra following a recent Senate inquiry resulting in the networks calling on their propaganda machine Free TV to roll out a marketing campaign “Free Sport Is On The Line” using ads across print, online and social media.

Nine Entertainment are going to go after the streaming rights for Stan and free to air TV rights on the Nine Network.

The problem is that Foxtel is the biggest source for streamed content in Australia, basically because they have invested in a multitude of options that best suit consumers who want streaming as their #1 source of content spanning sport and entertainment with consumers quite happy to pay for quality streamed content.

Hubbl is the latest example on the networks innovation into streaming with their new $99 Hubbl puck able to deliver both free to air and streamed content via a simple 4K device.

They have also delivered both Kayo & Binge streaming apps in recent years with consumers taking to them in the millions.

Total Foxtel Group subscribers were as of February 2024 running at 4.365 million of which 4.317 million is paid.

Total streaming subscribers, including Kayo Sports, BINGE and Foxtel Now reached 2.841 million this year which is up 3% year-on-year. Paid numbers are 2.794 million up 4% year-on-year.

The reality is that millions of Australians are living in apartments or small houses, and don’t want an aerial TV, instead they are watching content on a multitude of devices spanning tablets, smartphones and display monitors without a Linear aerial built in.

The Free to air networks are struggling to compete and are now using their media clout spanning print and digital publications to basically bully politicians into giving them what they want.

They are working on the principle that politicians need their media muscle and that what media companies want they get.

That worked in the days when Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer controlled key media in Australia and had serious clout in Canberra, today that clout has shifted to being more about the voice of the people who are using social media to send a message to Canberra.

What the free to networks don’t like is that the Senate basically flicked the issue back to the Labor controlled Government without any backing for what the free to air networks wanted.

Seven West Media’s new CEO Jeff Howard told Mumbrella: “We welcome the government’s plan to keep sports for free on broadcast TV, but it needs to do more: it must recognise the way people watch sport is changing and extend the amendments to the anti-siphoning regime to include free streaming.

“It’s very simple: the new Bill only guarantees free sports for Australians who have an aerial. It does not guarantee people will get free sport if they choose to stream it over the internet or don’t have an aerial. No aerial is going to mean no access to free sport in the future.

“Under the current proposed rules, Australians who don’t use an aerial will not have guaranteed access to free sport.

“The clock is ticking as people increasingly use the internet to watch sport, they are going to have to pay unless the government acts now.”

What Free TV Lobbyists have not explained is that the bulk of Australians are prepared to pay for content which is the revenue that Sneesby wants to get his hands on because ‘Free’ is not working anymore because free does not equal quality.

Foxtel with their $99 Hubble streaming puck puts NRL and ARL along with live formula one broadcasts to air in 4K, the free to air networks who have had every opportunity to invest in 4K are still putting content to air in 1080p definition and it shows when you are watching love sport such as NRL or AFL.

The main differences between 4K and 1080p lie in the pixel count.

4K resolution is 3840 x 2160 pixels whilst 1080p is 1920 x 1080 pixels.

The over 8 million pixels in 4K allow for greater image clarity, sharpness, and fine detail compared to the 2 million pixels in 1080p.

Streaming companies such as Foxtel are investing in better quality content while free to air TV networks are basically asking the network to support their lack of investment into TV technology.

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