Online content the future, says Coliseum

LAURA WALTERS
Last updated 07:14 20/06/2013
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Tim Martin
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NEW PLAYER: Coliseum Sports Media CEO Tim Martin speaking in Auckland.

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Sky Television is "gutted" to have lost the rights to screen football's English Premier League in New Zealand and it could lead to a loss of subscribers.

After 24 hours of speculation, it was revealed yesterday that Coliseum Sport Media Management had bought the rights to show the premier league in New Zealand for the next three seasons.

The company would not say how much it paid for the rights but it snatched them away from Sky Television in order to launch the English football competition coverage on an online platform.

Sky Television spokeswoman Kirsty Way said there might be some subscribers who felt they were not getting value and leave, but most customers subscribed to the sports channel for more than one thing.

Coliseum's founder and director, Timothy Martin, said customers could subscribe to the online channel and watch all 380 games of the premier league for $149.90 a season. He said TVNZ had the free-to-air rights and would show 38 premier league matches a season.

Sky TV and TVNZ launched a joint venture at the end of 2012 to deliver a discount paid-television package, known as Igloo, yet TVNZ has now entered an agreement with Sky TV's new competitors.

Way said those sorts of deals were "fair game".

"We often lose entertainment content to free-to-air channels."

Sky TV's subscription costs, however, will not be lowered.

The news will be greeted with enthusiasm by many New Zealand football fans who are looking for alternatives to Sky TV's sports packages.

Since the announcement Sky TV's share price has taken a beating.

Coliseum's Martin said online content was the way of the future.

Half of New Zealanders did not have Sky TV so an alternative model was necessary, but it was not the beginning of the end for the paid-content network he said.

An analyst who asked not to be named said the deal would not have much immediate impact on Sky TV.

"I guess people are just trying to grapple with what the longer-term implications are," he said. "You wouldn't expect this to be the last time this happens."

First NZ Capital equity research director Greg Main said the way people consumed television content was undergoing a transition but it was unclear how long that transition would last.

"I still think Sky is in a pretty good place for the next two or three years," he said. "Today's [share price] reaction was a little over the top."

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Martin said Coliseum had not entered a deal, and did not need to, with a telecommunications company.

Telecom spokesman Andrew Pirie said the telco did not intend to acquire any of the premier league rights from Coliseum or to become a joint venture partner.

"If we were to be involved, we would be involved in some kind of distribution arrangement, with the mechanics of that yet to be determined." Telecom was interested in this 'space', he said.

Telecom has about a 50 per cent share of the retail broadband market, meaning it could use its network to provide "unmetered" access to premier league matches to about 42 per cent of households, which would then be able to watch games on computers or televisions connected to the internet.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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