AFL, NRL broadcast rights: Google and Optus new players in broadcast rights battle
June 16, 2015
John Stensholt, Jon Pierik and David Ramli
The AFL and NRL's bids for record broadcast rights hauls have gathered considerable momentum, with Optus and Google entering the battle with established players Channel Nine, Seven and Telstra, as well as a recapitalised Ten Network.
Singtel-Optus chief executive Allen Lew said on Tuesday he would go head-to-head against Telstra and enter the bidding war to win digital streaming rights for AFL matches.
Telstra has been the sole telecommunications partner of both the AFL and NRL sporting codes with the exclusive right to live-stream matches to their customers. But Telstra may be forced to spend much more to secure the rights with internet giants like Google and Optus being linked with popular sports to attract more customers.
It is understood Google has been in talks with several Australian codes in recent months regarding joint ventures under which matches and highlights could be broadcast via YouTube. Although the offers are preliminary, Google's plans are said to involve some sort of revenue share contract rather than exclusive rights.
Singtel-Optus' Mr Lew told an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce event in Sydney that Optus had to evolve beyond telecommunications to attract customers via media products and other services.
"We have to start to get involved in digital media of various sorts and I think sports rights is one," he said. "So, yes, we'll be looking at it, but we'll be looking at it in a hard-nosed [way] and what are the advantages it brings us in this market and ... strategically how it fits in with how we want to be in the eyes of our customers."
Mr Lew welcomed reports from media and marketing website Mumbrella that Google was speaking with the NRL about potentially streaming content to customers and said sporting codes around the world were trying to bypass traditional platforms and reach fans directly.
"Professional sports like NBA and NFL [are] going direct to the worldwide audience and I'm glad the AFL is starting to look at its mobile rights in a way that doesn't have to go to a platform provider," he said.
"Going to customers direct is now a global trend and of course with everybody now connected via broadband networks it means you don't really need to go through an intermediary."
While Google has now been linked to the NRL, one media analyst told Fairfax Media he believed it was more likely the behemoth would seek to secure a major US sport first before turning its attention to Australia. "The thing is, if Google made too much money out of the venture, the AFL would do it themselves," he said.
"The AFL has got the TV networks earning almost nothing from the rights.They have got pay-TV still making money and the way to eventually bypass Fox Sports is to have people like Google, YouTube, and eventually Netflix, and Presto and Stan, add tiers to their offerings."
The AFL and NRL could both reap more than $1.5 billion for their next broadcast deals, both of which should be finalised by Christmas and include intense competition for digital rights.
The current five-year AFL deal, worth $1.25 billion and split between Seven, Foxtel and Telstra, expires at the end of the 2016 campaign.
http://www.smh.com.au/afl/afl-news/afl- ... hpg1i.html
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Interesting development with interest from Google. Optus is the one to take seriously though I think.
"One in every 24 Australians is now a member of an AFL club, a sign that the national reach of Australian football has never been greater," League CEO Gillon McLachlan said.
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