The Week in TV

Monday 9 November 2015
Nic Crowther's picture
Co Editor
The Shaker

We all love to flop in front of the box for a bit of a breather at the end of the day, however there is plenty of entertainment to be found backstage. A couple of weeks ago we pointed out moves in the industry to restructure the cross-ownership media laws.

Here are a couple of other issues that show the seismic shifts from behind the screen: 

Optus and the EPL

This is the one that caught everyone flat-footed and open-mouthed.

Out of the blue, Australia’s second largest telco announced they had secured the rights to the world’s biggest football competition for three years from the end of 2016 at a price of around A$180 million. There were two reactions to this. The first was, “How are they going to deliver the content?”

A fair question considering that, other than a whole lot of mobile phones running around the country, they have no other media channels available to them. Other than a partnership with Foxtel or one of the free-to-air channels, the most likely option appears to be developing a cross-platform app similar to those used by the US sports such as baseball and gridiron that works on mobile phones, laptops and smart TVs. With existing products in the market that consumers clearly understand, this may be the best option.

The second question is “What does this mean for Foxtel?” Sport is a massive driver for subscriptions, and the PayTV giant is yet to secure any rights to its showcase sport – rugby league. The loss of another high-profile sport could put pressure on a business that is already feeling the squeeze from on-demand services that offer a cheaper alternative to Foxtel’s bundled packages.

Seven wins the ratings year again...

You might feel there is no need to read on – it’s the ninth year in a row that Kerry Stokes’ organisation has walked away with the biggest title in reality TV. Channel Nine is still chasing hard though, and cites big wins in all the younger demographics as its greatest achievement for 2015. While it may not have had the most eyeballs across the ratings period, it did have those the most of those that spend – and that’s important for much-needed advertising revenue.

Interestingly, Channel Nine also secured the most-watched TV program of the year – The National Rugby League Grand Final. This was something of a surprise given that this year’s ‘big dance’ featured two Queensland teams. Perhaps Jonathon Thurston’s grin is worth more than anyone realised.

Foxtel ramps up the anti-siphoning debate

Not one of the sexiest topics in the Australian media landscape, but it’s important in that it’s yet another move on the chessboard that shows how we might be viewing television in the years to come. Anti-siphoning protects big sports that have a national and cultural importance from being swallowed up by PayTV.

This is the law that provides first options to Free-to Air channels to broadcast the big grand finals are on free to air, as well the Australian F1 Grand prix, the Melbourne Cup, etc. Of course, should they not take the option, these programs are available to Foxtel. However, there are also a bunch of other sports (such as the FA Cup Final) that are on the list that could be argued to be on a lower tier of national importance, and therefore moved onto a level playing field.

Foxtel is preparing a submission to the Communications Department in this regard, and it is largely seen as a part of a greater play that involves remodelling of the reach laws (that prevent media outlets owning more than two out of the three mainstream media – radio, television and newspapers – in any single market). The reach laws – largely seen as defunct in an online world – will be another battle where some very big players have some very large interests.

How the Turnbull Government and newly-minted Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield, find their way through the dynamic, complex and crucial legislative setting will make for great viewing.

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