Streaming platforms may be restricted from broadcasting some live sports, pending review

Digital streaming services may have access to certain live sports restricted to ensure Australians can continue to watch major events on free-to-air TV.

The change is being considered amid a review of the government’s anti-siphoning scheme, which prevents subscription services such as Foxtel from acquiring media rights to certain sports unless a free-to-air broadcaster has already acquired them.

Currently, the scheme does not prevent streaming services such as Kayo, Optus Sports or Amazon Prime from acquiring exclusive rights to the same high-profile sporting events.

The federal government is seeking industry feedback on how the anti-laundering scheme could be improvedgiven rapid changes around digital media and how people watch live sport.

“Every Australian deserves the chance to enjoy live and free coverage of events of national importance, no matter where they live or what they earn,” Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said.

“Subscription-based services make a valuable contribution to Australia’s media market and consumer choice, but not everyone can afford to pay for sport.”

The current anti-siphoning list includes the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, AFL, rugby league, rugby union, football, tennis, netball, motor sports, horse racing and cricket.

This review will also consider whether the list of sports should also be changed or expanded.

A consultation paper issued by the government on Monday warns that there is a “risk that new players in the sports distribution market will gain exclusive media rights to events on the anti-siphon list”.

Media consumption is changing rapidly

The paper notes that most online sports coverage has generally been “supplementary” to traditional television broadcasting in Australia.

However, it also warns that media consumption patterns are changing rapidly and that live sports on streaming services are increasingly common overseas.

In Germany, streaming services accounted for a quarter of total spending on sports television rights.

And in Italy, the share is expected to reach 53 percent this year.

“The impact of online coverage of sporting events – in terms of interest and participation in sports – is difficult to ascertain due to the relative recentness of the trend and the lack of publicly available research and data,” the report said.

“However, this is expected to evolve over the coming years as sports codes look to take advantage of the opportunities offered by online streaming services.”

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