Messy times ahead for sports watchers

Last updated 16:35 19/06/2013

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Sky Television appears to have more serious competition on its hands now that a private company, Coliseum, has outbid it for the New Zealand broadcast rights to English Premier League football games.

OPINION: Television New Zealand will be the free-to-air broadcaster and Telecom's involvement, which has yet to be confirmed, will be shallower than I speculated this morning.

It may be that Coliseum and Telecom have discussed a deal that would let Telecom offer unmetered access to Coliseum's Premier League games, so viewing would not count towards its customers' data caps, or a deal to make games easier to watch on devices connected to its mobile network.

[CORRECTION: It appears I got it right the first time and a deep partnership will see Telecom offer Premier League viewing not just unmetered but free or cheap to many of its fixed-line broadband customers.]

No deal has been done. But it is understood the telco wants to use sports to differentiate its broadband service from the competition.

On the one hand, many television viewers will be pleased to see Sky under more competitive pressure to raise its game. But on the other, this promises to get very messy for consumers.

Competition is a prickly beast in the television sector.

The risk, I argued in a column in May last year, is that it could fragment that market and destroy what economists call "consumer surplus", throwing the baby (bucket-list programming) out with the bathwater (Sky's profits).

Do the one half of broadband users who are not Telecom customers want to switch their internet provider so they can watch Premier League games unmetered on-demand?

What if Vodafone then secured the internet television rights to the A-league or the rugby?

Welcome to the brave new world of broadcasting rights.

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