Free-to-air networks unite to put live TV on mobiles before December
Television will be in your pocket before the end of the year, after Freeview announced plans for a live TV app on Monday.
However, the app puts Freeview in direct conflict with several sporting codes, including the AFL and Cricket Australia, which hold a tight grip on their digital streaming rights or have sold them to telcos for a significant price.
NRL games will be available for free on mobile phones through the Freeview app from 2018, because Nine acquired digital streaming rights last year. But AFL fans will have to pay for Telstra’s live mobile app because the telco has tied up digital streaming rights until 2022.
Cricket Australia holds the digital rights for both Big Bash League and international matches, but Ten and Nine have television broadcast rights.
The Freeview app will offer “live-streaming from all the free-to-air networks” and feature at least 15 of the 25 free-to-air channels when it launches in November. This means it will have at least one digital channel from each network – Nine, Seven, Ten, ABC and SBS.
While each network already have apps offering live streaming and on-demand content, such as ABC’s iView or Ten’s Play, this is the first time all stations will be available on one app all day long.
“For the first time globally, a free-to-air industry has united to create and deliver a powerful consumer experience … Freeview TV will completely revolutionise access to the free-to-air TV offering in Australia,” Freeview chief executive Liz Ross said in a press release.
It has not yet been confirmed which channels will be available. Users will also need to consider how much data live streaming uses on mobile broadband networks.
The Freeview app will offer “live-streaming from all the free-to-air networks” and feature at least 15 of the 25 free-to-air channels when it launches in November. Photo: Glenn Hunt
Freeview represents free digital television channels and its mission is to “deliver free-to-air content to all Australians where, when and on whatever device they choose”.
When asked whether live sports would be available, Ms Ross said “Yes, if a broadcaster has the digital rights for mobile.”
Telstra paid about $300 million for “exclusive live streaming of all AFL matches to mobile devices.
In 2011, Telstra successfully forced Optus to shut down its TV Now app through legal action in the Federal Court. TV Now offered near-live streaming of television, including live sports.
Last year, Telstra paid about $300 million for “exclusive live streaming of all AFL matches to mobile devices from 2017 via the Official AFL Live App”. This means Seven will have to put something else on the Freeview app when it broadcasts AFL matches.
Cricket Australia will start re-negotiating its broadcast and digital rights next year.
When the NRL rights were re-negotiated last year Channel Nine bought digital streaming rights. A Nine spokesman confirmed that until 2018 NRL games would “go black” when being watched over Freeview or NineGo. But after that, fans would be able to watch games on mobiles by streaming Channel Nine.
“We welcome all innovation in the entertainment and content industry,” a Telstra spokesman said on Monday.
“Telstra has mobile digital rights agreements with the NRL and AFL to live stream matches to mobile devices via the NRL Digital App and the Official AFL Live App,” he said, adding the new NRL deal would take effect from 2018.
Cricket Australia will start re-negotiating its broadcast and digital rights next year. The current deal will end in early 2019.
This is the latest move within Australia’s television and radio industries to put competition aside and co-operate in a fight for survival against digital advertising.
Last week, Commercial Radio Australia launched RadioApp, featuring more than 250 stations from commercial and public broadcasters. And the television industry, including Foxtel, earlier this year created ThinkTV, a group lobbying advertisers to return to television. ThinkTV is modelled on a UK group called ThinkBox, which uses television ads to promote advertising on TV.
ThinkTV has launched a program to quantify the impact of television advertising, and will host its first conference in a few weeks.