TV sports market in NZ set to change forever

DAVID LONG
Last updated 11:33 19/06/2013
Robin Van Persie
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OFF AIR: Sky TV has lost the right to broadcast games Premier League games.
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OPINION: Sky TV's loss of the rights to screen English Premier League football is one of the most significant situations the pay TV network has got itself into.

Not having the rights to the Premier League is hardly the same as the company not showing MotoGP or the Giro d'Italia. It is far more significant.

A large number of people subscribe to Sky Sports for the English football - it's not a nice little add on. It's all well and good for Sky TV to say they'll continue to cover the All Whites and Wellington Phoenix, but - for the majority - football is the Premier League.

One thing that's for sure is Sky TV won't drop their subscription costs, so viewers will be paying the same for less.

What the new rights holders will do with their acquisition is unclear, however, there are a few issues for them.

Sky TV remain the gatekeeper for subscription TV in New Zealand. If the new rights holders want to reach a large audience to recoup their investment they'll need to come to an agreement with Sky to broadcast their product.

There are already a number of third party channels on the Sky platform. Examples include the Asian WTV channels, Star Plus Hindi, the Arts Channel and France 24. 

Negotiations would no doubt be frosty as Sky would hardly want to give their rivals a good deal on something they've just been outbid for.

There have been suggestions the rights holders will bring a new set-top box to the market and charge customers around $200 per annum to watch the EPL.

This isn't ideal. Do people really want another box in the already cluttered space under their TV? And with the new season starting in a couple of months, how quickly can they launch a marketing campaign to get people signed up and distribute boxes all over the country?

Of course there is the online pathway and with telecommunications companies offering increasingly larger broadband caps, it's becoming a more viable option. Viewers with Apple TV can already subscribe to watch Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL in HD through the service. Sports organisations cutting out the middle men (pay TV networks) and going straight to the public seems to be the future.

Of course, whichever route this story takes, it's going to hit the pockets of Kiwi sports fans. It's unknown if the new rights holders' plans go beyond football but if they do, it could be a positive.

With TVNZ and TV3 giving up the fight to show sport, Maori TV are the only network to have stopped Sky from having a monopoly, but they don't have the financial muscle to be a real competitor.

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Because of the position Sky have been in they've been accused of being complacent in negotiations. Sky TV held all the cards and if a sport didn't do a deal with them, they had nowhere else to go. But that was before a new player arrived in town.

Things will become clearer over the next few weeks but one thing's for sure; the sport on TV market in New Zealand has changed forever.

- Fairfax Media

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