Talking major sports’ future on ABC 702 Sydney

If you’d asked me last week what I thought I’d be doing this week, the answer would not have included “writing and talking about the future of the major sporting codes as televisions events”. But I wrote this thing in the newspaper…

Last week federal court judge Justice Steven Rares ruled that Optus’ TV Now service, which allows customers to record free-to-air TV and have it streamed back to their smartphone, tablet or computer at a more convenient time, was a legal form of time-shifting under section 111 of the Copyright Act 1968.

Even if competing telco Telstra had a supposedly-exclusive deal with the Australian Football League (AFL) to stream live video coverage of matches to smartphones. Even if the delay between an Optus customer starting to record a game and playing it back was just two minutes.

Telstra is paying the AFL $153 million over five years for this now-not-so-exclusive streaming right. Optus pays the AFL nothing, because they’re just providing a technical service through which individual customers make their own “solely for private and domestic use” recordings.

Josh Taylor covered it for ZDNet Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald commissioned me to write an opinion piece that was published this morning, Sport has to think outside the box. Do please read it. It seem to have struck a chord, because I’ve received a lot of compliments.

Then the ABC’s Linda Mottram asked me to chat about the issues on 702 Sydney. And here’s the audio, along with her subsequent chat with a talkback caller on the same topic.

Play

The audio is of course ©2012 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. But these program items usually aren’t archived on their website so here it is. And I will of course suggest that you listen to Linda Mottram’s morning program regularly.

I’m thinking of writing up some of my thoughts on how future sporting coverage could be done technically. Meanwhile, do you feel as I do that the days of cashed-up major sporting codes are about to end?

[Update 8 February 2012, 1015: The Sydney Morning Herald has published a follow-up piece this morning by rugby legend Roy Masters. Court has gambled with codes’ futures. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to draw me a diagram of what the fuck he’s talking about.]

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3 comments

  1. Michael’s avatar

    What I’d like to see you write up is a few suggestions on how such coverage can be made financially viable.

    It’s easy to say a ruling means “revolutionary new ways of engaging fans and monetising their eyeballs” must be found. That much is obvious.

    It’s a tad harder to generate those “revolutionary” ideas.

    People have been mentioning for a decade that “old” media organisations need to find ways to monetise, etc, and everyone says, yes yes, they need to think up something … without coming up with too many viable suggestions.

  2. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    @Michael: Sure, I’ll take up that challenge. But I won’t have time this week. February has turned into a very hectic month for me.

    I will say, though, that if the task is “Provide a large, distributed audience with the sound and vision of a football game” — even with the clause “along with competent commentary” added — then it’s relatively easy.

    If the task is “Provide an existing large sporting-media collaboration with a new business model that’s at least as profitable as the old, and with a transition path that’ll be acceptable to all the stakeholders” — and by that I probably mean that mid- and upper-level managers won’t have to sack themselves — well, that’s rather different.

    That overall is the problem facing the AFL, NRL and their media partners. They all want their respective organisations to continue to exist more or less as they are now. I don’t think that can be done — though that’s all gut feelings rather than science.

  3. Shaun’s avatar

    The interesting thing is that yourself, who as you admit knows little about sport, was on the money as opposed to Masters who knows quite a bit about sports (especially rugby league).

    Master’s article is a ridiculous Chicken Little scenario. I bet many who are on Optus (including myself) would not TV Now to check on betting legs. Personally I’d use Twitter or the many live update sites accessible from smartphones to get results. And if you aren’t hip with the latest smartphone I’m sure there are text based services. In fact, I bet Optus’ TV Now has very little impact on Telstra’s NRL rights. It is just a case of legal pissing to mark out boundaries.

    The lack of vision by the NRL is frustrating but alas nothing new. But if you are going to take up Michael’s challenge you’d need to to have an idea of how NRL fans use the net (and how they don’t). It is interesting that as many NRL clubs are embracing social media the NRL as a whole is yet to work out who to embrace the Internet beyond Twitter and Facebook.

    I quite like the how the NHL’s (US National Hockey League) Gamecenter Live works. All out of market games are shown on it for about US $120 per season. Can view it via iPhone, iPad or even Apple TV. Not saying Apple is where it is at or will be in the future. But smartphones, IPTV etc are great avenues for sporting organisations to start developing strategies for rather than whinging to the government and asking for changes to legislation.

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