Streamers can now outbid free-to-air networks for digital sports streaming rights

Streaming Matildas

“The Government and the Coalition have sold out free sport today.”

The Prominence and Anti-siphoning bill was passed without amendment by the Senate on Thursday, meaning subscription streamers, such as Prime Video, Netflix and Foxtel’s Kayo could now outbid free-to-air networks for digital streaming rights for Australian sporting events.

This means that while streaming services, as well as subscription TV, cannot buy the free broadcast (aerial delivered) rights until a free-to-air broadcaster, such as Nine, Seven, or 10, has acquired them, they are not stopped from bidding on the streaming rights that free-to-air broadcasters currently have on their respective BVOD services (9Now, 7Plus, 10 Play or SBS On Demand).

According to Bridget Fair, CEO of Free TV, the decision leaves an increasing number of Australians watching their free TV services through the internet and on BVOD services in the dark, with no guarantee of free sport.

“Research shows that 69 per cent of Australians access their TV via the internet, so it’s hard to understand why these laws do not like after their interests and guarantee free sport for the millions who watch TV online,” she said.

“Sadly, with the passing of this bill, we will now see a nation of the haves and have-nots when it comes to accessing the broadcasts and online services of our beloved commercial and national networks.

“How could this be allowed to happen in a country that has always celebrated the fair go for all?”

Fair continues by stating the laws contain significant gaps that will “undermine the whole anti-siphoning framework and force Australians to pay thousands of dollars to streaming services to access the sporting events that Australians expect to watch for free.”

In relation to the Prominence aspect of the bill, the regime was meant to ensure that free-to-air services are available and easy to find on connected TVs, not just streaming services that pay for prime spots on viewers’ smart TV home screens. 

The new Prominence laws will only apply to TVs that are supplied in 18 months’ time, meaning Australians with an existing connected TV will continue to see paid apps front and centre on their smart TV home screens.

“The prominence rules should apply to both new and existing connected TVs. We all know that not everyone can afford a new TV – especially at the moment – when people are already struggling to balance weekly grocery budgets and pay energy bills,” Fair said.

“Even the Government’s own research shows that less than 1 in 10 people buy a new TV set each year.”

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has slammed the Bill, stating Australians will now be forced to use their credit card to pay for sport locked behind streaming paywalls. 

“The Government and the Coalition have sold out free sport today, doing the dirty work of the Murdoch media and giant American streaming corporations like Amazon and Netflix,” she said.

“Labor, Liberal and the Nationals have colluded to ram through a law that is going to make it harder for millions of households around the country to access sport for free.

“We could have fixed this sports streaming law to protect free access to significant events like the Matildas, the rugby, the footy and the Olympics in our digital age. Now, Australians will need to pull out their credit card and pay Mr. Murdoch on Kayo for the privilege of barracking for their own team.

“Regional communities where local television stations are increasingly closing down, you’ve been sold down the river today by the National Party who chose big corporate profits over the community’s right to free sport in a digital age.

“This Government is out of touch on the cost of living, out of touch with young people, out of touch with regional Australia. They are technological troglodytes.”

See also: Free TV: Millions will miss out on free sport unless laws are updated

To Top