TV viewership is declining, and live sports broadcasting is taking a shift towards live streaming on mobile devices that offer fans easier access and more flexibility.
Why Live Stream?
Customers of the company responsible for the live stream can often access their sport for free, with paid subscriptions often available for everyone else. For some sports being hosted by telcos, customers can evenstream matches data-free, with the data used not counted towards their monthly total. Offering a choice between TV and mobile apps caters for a range of viewers; with younger viewers tending to prefer to stream their games, and the older market watching most sports on TV.
Customers can pick and choose what sports they would pay to watch, instead of having to sign up to an expensive monthly subscription like Foxtel with lots of extra content they may not want. However, for fans with a number of interests, navigating which companies hold the rights to each sporting code and in what form it is offered can be confusing.
Slicing up the Australian Sports Broadcasting Pie
In 2016, Optus took Premier League rights off Foxtel for $150 million over 3 years. Fans of the English Premier League have to become an Optus customer and pay an additional $15 per month to access the games. Rather than being a dedicated sports broadcaster, Optus banked on die-hard fans signing up for 24 month postpaid phone plans in order to gain access to their favourite sport.
Accessing live sports in Australia takes some navigating. Sports can be broadcasted on free-to-air channels, or on paid TV channels through services like Foxtel. Live streaming is available on devices, sometimes through a sports-specific app or through the company’s TV viewing app. Some companies offer screen-casting for live streamed games through their mobile devices, which allow them to be viewed on the TV. However, if the company has only mobile rights and not TV rights, they could be restricted to devices smaller than 12” by 12”.
For example, Telstra does have mobile handset rights to stream AFL and NRL, but can’t offer screen casting for NRL or AFL, seeing as the TV rights are owned by free-to-air stations and Foxtel. They also show two Super Netball matches on Channel Nine and Telstra TV each week, but all the matches are available on the Netball Australia app. It is positive for sport in general that companies are bidding for various rights, but customers do have to find out how to access the sports they want to watch in their preferred format.
Extras Offered to Customers
The apps offered for live streaming often have added extras that enhance user experience. Some sports, such as the NRL, are taking control of their own apps in terms of content but allowing Telstra to retain streaming rights for the games. As well as live streams, there are features like live stats, team info and recorded highlights available in each sport.
Many apps have been cleverly designed to fit user needs, with functions like the ability to hide scores within the app if you miss a game and don’t want to see the results. Fans almost always have a particular team they support, and this is reflected in the availability for most team sports of a central app for streaming that includes a targeted newsfeed for fans of a particular club, but additional club-specific apps for tailored information.
The Benefits for Australian Sports
While many sporting codes had been eyeing the lack of competition for broadcasting rights with some unease, telcos like Telstra have begun to enter the market in a big way. These companies are providing sports that have been somewhat marginalised by major television networks with an avenue to live stream games, build their fan base and connect with them via mobile apps.
Negotiating the different types of broadcasting is difficult, but does allow fans to pick and choose what they want to watch instead of having to pay for other unwanted content as well as access to their sport of choice. Mobile live streaming allows subscribers to be flexible, instead of locked to a TV set at regular time. There are benefits and drawbacks to the current direction of sports broadcasting, but one thing is for sure – live streaming is here to stay.