This is what happens when you have sport on Free to Air TV

americas-cup-logo-300In New Zealand there is very little choice when it comes to watching sport on television.  You can either pay a small fortune to Sky for their sports coverage or you can watch a select few events delayed, usually on Sky’s free to air channel Prime, or you can wait for a news bulletin for some highlights.

We’re rather deprived of sport on free to air television in this country due to the strangle hold monopoly that Sky Television has on sports rights.  Contrast this in Australia where there are regularly live games on free to air television from a number of sporting codes.  Even in the US, big sporting events like the Superbowl are broadcast on free to air channels.

While the viewing figures for things like grass roots rugby matches have dropped, and subsequently ticket sales, since Sky Television took over the broadcasting rights, when there is a sporting event that Kiwi’s care deeply about and can actually watch live on free to air television, then the ratings go through the roof.

Take yesterday’s first America’s Cup race between Team New Zealand and Oracle.  The ratings showed that it was the 4th most watched thing on TV yesterday.  More than half a million kiwis were glued to their televisions from 8am on a Sunday morning.  Those numbers are not insignificant.
I think it is high time that we had some discussion about regulating just how much sport Sky can control.  Heaven forbid we win the America’s Cup again and Sky pilfers those viewing rights away from the other half of the population who either don’t want to or can’t afford the subscription fees.

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About the author

Regan is one of the co-founders of Throng Media.
If they're on, I'm usually watching Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, 24, Battlestar Galactica, The X Factor, Survivor, House of Cards, Mad Men and the NRL.
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  • Craig

    Moving to this country years ago, it still boggles my mind why the two major national teams (All Blacks, Black Caps) are not free-to-air.

    • Drew Horan

      It too amazes me how we dont see our national game on free to air tv!! Its madness, if America, Australia and the UK can do it, surely we can!! I hope we see the introduction of anti siphoning laws in the near future!

  • Reece

    No discussion will happen until an election and change of government occurs.

    • Regan Cunliffe

      Are you serious Reece? Do you think Sky’s monopoly only came about since the 2008 election?

      • Reece

        No I don’t thank you very much and it wasn’t what the comment meant.

        The wheels were in motion with the reviewing of broadcasting regulation and submissions were being made in 2008 including the issue of sports rights with suggestions of anti siphoning being introduced. This review just happened to be deemed not necessary in early 2009…………

        • Regan Cunliffe

          And you don’t think Sky wouldn’t have lobbied their way to the same result with a different government?

          • Reece

            Well who knows. Obviously something was going to happen otherwise the review wouldn’t have kept going until 2009.

    • bobscoffee

      Well obviously there’s a better chance of something happening under a Labour government than a National one, Regan.

      • Regan Cunliffe

        Logic would suggest that…

  • Trevor Ashman

    SKY do a great job with sports so I’m happy with the way it is 🙂

  • Andrew

    There probably does need to be an ‘Anti Siphoning’ list enacted by the Government, but should only to events of ‘major’ interest to NZ. The reality is that FTA does not have the capacity to cover live sport as Sky does. If everything went back to FTA we’d be back in the bad old days sport coverage. Sky does a superb job with is sport coverage which some people fail to recognise

    • Regan Cunliffe

      I don’t think anyone is suggesting that all sport should go back to FTA. However major interest events and even the odd not so major wouldn’t go amiss.

      • Andrew

        I think the Issue is defining what is a major interest event and where do you place the limits. In any event I think SKY would retain the rights for everything they currently have and just air ad interrupted live coverage via Prime.

  • Bogues

    The only reason any sport is on FTA in Australia is because of the anti siphoning laws. I’m not sure how the sporting codes in New Zealand would feel if the same came to New Zealand. The FTA networks don’t have the same amount of dollars that Sky have (especially Mediaworks)

  • Russell Gray

    Little choice for free sport? Have you forgotten Sommet Sports on Freeview 14? An interesting variety of sport too.

  • Graham

    So you believe that people who don’t like sport (taxpayers) should pay for others to watch sport for free? Someone has to pay for the rights. Rather let it be those who want to watch.

  • Vinnie

    I take the point but I think it’s also important to note that broadcasting rights are a major revenue stream for the sports as well. Take rugby where, before the AIG deal at least, roughly half of the NZRU’s income came from Adidas and the other half from broadcasting rights. If anti-siphoning laws were introduced mandating that national teams or sports/events of national interest must be on free to air (as in Aus) the value of said rights would go down and the income for the rugby or whatever union would be less. In rugby’s case the flow on effect could be less money to play top players and more players heading overseas and subsequently a weaker ABs team. Maybe I’m being a bit extreme but I think it’s something to contemplate as well.

    Obv Sky has a lot of $$$ and uses it to buy up most of the sports rights but TVNZ and Mediaworks have funds for shows also (well Mediaworks is perhaps debatable!). What’s to stop them bidding for the ABs or whatever, just like Coliseum outbid Sky for Premier League football. If they did people would obviously watch it, and in greater numbers, and they’d be able to boost their advertising incomes which could allow them to invest in more sport or drama or whatever they wish.

    Also don’t forget that TVNZ won the rights to the Comm Games in 2010 but backed out of the deal and Sky picked it up as a result. That’s not Sky’s fault.

  • ottid88

    I think the issue is more that Sky have all of the infrastructure for sport on site broadcasting (Those OSB trucks you see outside live sports events) and no one else in New Zealand has that capability, or enough funding to be able to produce the same quality as Sky.