TVNZ part of deal for football TV rights

SIMON PLUMB, LAURA WALTERS AND TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 14:37 19/06/2013
Fairfax NZ

TVNZ in Premier League sport rights deal with Coliseum Sports Media.

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NEW PLAYER: Coliseum Sports Media CEO Tim Martin speaking in Auckland this afternoon.
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ONLINE OPTION: All Premier League games will be available via the internet.

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Coliseum Sports Media Management has been joined by TVNZ in a deal to broadcast TV coverage of English Premier League football matches after Sky TV lost the rights.

Coliseum - whose directors include NBR rich-lister and former Lion Nathan director Peter Cooper, and Matthew Cockram - will broadcast the entire competition online, and TVNZ will show one game on Sunday as well as an hour-long highlights show on Monday nights.

Broadcast details are still being finalised. 

Coliseum's dedicated pay-per-view online platform PremierLeaguePass.com will launch on August 1, TVNZ said, showing all 380 games of the season live, with 250 of those available on-demand for just under $150 a year.

The newly formed company's chief executive, Tim Martin, said Coliseum had purchased rights for the EPL across all platforms and had gathered partners in specific platform areas, with TVNZ a free-to-air partner.  

"This gives a chance for all of New Zealand to see English Premier League and not only half of it," Martin said.

"We've got three years [contract] and we're going to give it a real go.

"Over the next few weeks we will have more announcements," he said.

"We want to make access to these sorts of sports more accessible for New Zealanders. This will be a new experience for Kiwis. The advances in technology allow us to achieve this. It's been a long time coming."

He said the entire EPL season would be made available to New Zealand fans with the cheapest offer being $99 for all games.

An average subscription would be around $150 per season. TVNZ and other platforms would also provide additional football content beyond live and replayed matches.

Martin would not reveal how much had been paid for the EPL rights. 

Coliseum Sports Media was established in New Zealand in June last year, with offices in Auckland and California.

Cooper is a California-based Kiwi said to be worth $650 million and founder of Cooper and Company. He was responsible for the development of the Britomart precinct in Downtown Auckland, and previously worked as a commercial and property lawyer at Russell McVeagh. Cockram is also a lawyer.

"We're excited to be working with Coliseum to give TV viewers a chance to see the world's most watched and closely followed football competition. We know football fans are passionate supporters of the beautiful game," 

TVNZ was excited to be part of the deal, said Jeff Latch, TVNZ head of TV One and TV2.

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Sky's share price dropped six per cent after the announcement it had lost the rights, and the move by Coliseum indicates the pressure the pay TV giant is now under to stop its audience fragmenting.

Sky chief executive John Fellet last night confirmed the loss of the rights and his disappointment. He revealed Sky had put in its biggest ever bid for the rights but had been beaten. 

The news will be greeted with enthusiasm by many football fans in New Zealand who are looking for alternatives to Sky's sports packaging which doesn't allow subscribers to purchase football only.

But it will rock Sky which has held an iron-grip on sporting rights in this country, successfully burying the free-to-air networks as meaningful rivals.

Since the announcement Sky's Facebook page has been inundated with subscribers asking whether their monthly premiums would go down now that the paid-network is not paying for the rights to the high-profile league.

Telecom is not saying whether it expects to be involved.

Telecom spokesman Andrew Pirie said Telecom had no contract in place with regard to the Premier League, adding that he would "not comment on discussions".

Telecom chief executive Simon Moutter has previously downplayed the likelihood of the company getting deeply involved in media or broadcasting.

However, he signalled to analysts in May that the company had had something of a change of heart and would look at opportunities to differentiate its broadband offerings from the competition.

It is understood Telecom has concluded that will necessitate the company getting access to exclusive sports content.

Sources said the Premier League games could be a logical first target.

Telecom has about a 50 per cent share of the retail broadband market, meaning it could provide unmetered access to Premier League matches and other sports codes on-demand to about 42 per cent of homes.

Sporting bodies around the world are giving increasing consideration to splitting off traditional broadcast rights from the rights to transmit coverage of their events online, and selling the two separately.

Telecom also has the option of developing a television set-top box that would connect to the ultrafast broadband network, providing a full alternative to Sky's satellite transmission network.

Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Paul Brislen said the change in rights-holder would change the way people viewed sport.

"We will be able to access the content wherever we are on whatever device," he said.

Brislen said all television content was moving towards digital platforms, with the number of mobile devices expected to reach 50 billion globally in the next 20 years.

Customers had been looking for a digital model to view sport, Brislen said.

However, it was unusual that the first sport to be distributed under the new model was such a high profile, traditional sport, he said.

Consumers would be happy to pay to watch the content online, as they had done previously for Sky.

Eventually, sporting institutions such as the All Blacks and Manchester United would sell content directly to consumers rather than using media companies and paying for expensive infrastructure, Brislen said.

- Fairfax Media

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