Interest in Premier League broadcasting rights revealed

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 09:59 21/06/2013

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If you think only die-hard soccer fans would fork out $150 to watch a season of English Premier League football online, you are probably not alone.

But Telecom could wrap up a deal within a week that would let its broadband customers watch matches at little cost or even free.

Coliseum, a company backed by two wealthy lawyers, shook up the pay-television market on Wednesday when it announced it had outbid Sky Television for the broadcasting rights to the football league.

But the big piece in the jigsaw puzzle fell into place only yesterday when Telecom spokesman Andrew Pirie said it was exploring the option of letting its home broadband customers watch matches for less than Coliseum's standard price of $150 a season.

Any arrangement between the firms was unlikely to let all Telecom customers watch Coliseum's full service for free, he said. That suggested there would still be some sort of charge for at least some of its broadband subscribers.

First NZ Capital analyst Greg Main speculated Telecom might offer the best deals on Premier League games to customers who spent $100 or more on its monthly plans.

Coliseum downplayed the significance of a partnership with a telco when it announced its sporting-rights win on Wednesday, after word leaked out Sky TV had lost the rights. But chief executive Tim Martin said yesterday there "were advantages definitely" to a partnership and confirmed it was exploring the options.

"We would have loved another week before this story broke because we would have been a bit further along with a few of these things," he said.

Martin said Coliseum's standard pricing worked out at less than 50 cents a game.

The traditional pay-television market that let large numbers of viewers watch a wide of programming for a fixed price would not collapse overnight, he said.

"I understand some people are concerned, but the sky hasn't fallen - excusing the pun. We have got one competition and the reason we have purchased that is we feel we can provide a better experience providing all 380 games live. It feels better if you are a Premier League fan."

Coliseum has awarded Television New Zealand the right to broadcast one Premier League match each week free-to-air. But Martin said that arrangement was "not about money".

"Our deal with TVNZ is about getting this out to the widest possible audience. That's the value to us in the TVNZ relationship."

New Zealand's third largest broadband company Slingshot said it would unmeter Coliseum's service, so viewing would not eat into customers' data caps.

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- Fairfax Media

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