opinion There’s a lot interesting fallout regarding the Federal Court’s decision allowing Optus to offer its customers a service that can save free-to-air television broadcasts in the “cloud” and then stream the audio and video to their mobile phones. If you’re familiar with the SlingBox service that’s available in the United States, you’ll find it’s very similar to that.
But I cannot fathom on what grounds the AFL would be unhappy with either (i) what Optus is offering or (ii) the decision of the Federal Court in relation to it.
Most of the criticism coming from Telstra and the AFL is that this somehow breaches the copyright the AFL holds over the broadcast of matches. They claim that Optus’ service will devalue the broadcast rights (which were renegotiated last year to be worth a record breaking $1.25billion over 5 years), thus placing the future of the sport in jeopardy. As part of that new broadcast deal, the AFL signed with Telstra to allow Telstra customers to stream matches to Telstra’s T-Box and other devices (such as smart phones) connected to Telstra’s Next-G mobile phone network. According to reports that part of the deal is worth some $153 million over 5 years.
And it’s here where things start to get derpy.
Firstly, Optus’ TV Now service is only available to Optus customers (in much the same way that Telstra’s deal is only available to Telstra customers). So, this service isn’t encroaching on Telstra’s turf at all. It can be argued that having a service such as this available may result in people not switching from Optus to Telstra if they wish to get AFL coverage on their mobile phone, but I cannot for the life of me imagine that the number of people who would consider doing that would be all that high.
So what Optus is essentially providing is a service that has the potential to increase the AFL’s audience, not shrink it. And, for any sporting body, eyeballs watching matches are what make you money.
At best, the TV Now service is capable of showing matches on a 90 second delay – which for the sake of the argument is as good as live. Which means that viewers are also going to be subjected to the advertisements that are broadcast during the match.
It seems to me that what the AFL, Optus and Channel 7 (the free-to-air broadcast partner who’s coverage the TV Now service will be able to capture and stream) should be doing is looking at how many people are using this service and factoring that into advertising rates during matches – assuming of course that a higher audience number means a higher charge placed on ad spots during the match broadcasts.
Yes, Telstra has more of a right to be upset, but practically I can’t see just how they’re going to be losing out. Do people really change mobile service providers based off one tiny piece of exclusive content? Hell, are these extra services even used that widely? I’d love to know how many people paid their money for Cricket Australia’s streaming service that was available through the Vodafone produced Cricket Live app.
The reaction from the AFL in particular demonstrates just how completely out of touch they are with the changing attitudes towards television and broadcast sport. Optus’ TV Now service is something that they should be leveraging for their own benefit, not castigating because they reckon that the services that are going to be provided through the deal with Telstra are adequate enough.
More eyeballs in front of live sport broadcasts are what matter. The AFL should be encouraging people to watch their product. Trying to stop them is just completely counter-productive. The Federal Court and see that, why can’t they?