Optus in for digital sporting rights?

James McGrath
By James McGrath | 17 June 2015

Against a backdrop where Telstra has hinted that it would seek greater reward from the digital rights of the AFL and mobile rights of the NRL, Optus has dropped the bombshell that it may seek to go up against Telstra for the highly prized rights.

Optus chief executive Allen Lew sent the cat amongst the pigeons yesterday by suggesting it may make a play for the digital rights on the AFL and NRL.

“We have to start to get involved in digital media of various sorts, and I think sports rights is but one,” Lew told reporters yesterday.

“"So yes we'll be looking at it, but we'll be looking at it in a hard-nosed [way] and what are the advantages it brings us in this market and ... strategically how it fits in with how we want to be in the eyes of our customers."

Speaking at last month's Media Summit Telstra’s group managing director for media and marketing, Joe Pollard, said while sport is a big driver for the telco, she said there was a limit as to what the business would pay for rights.

“There needs to be a mutually beneficial relationship between the rights holder and the rights exploiter,” she noted.

Optus this morning downplayed Lew's comments, saying they were of a general nature only and did not indicate that Optus was lining up a concrete bid against Telstra in the current round of rights negotiations.

The digital rights for the AFL and NRL are seen as a key piece of the puzzle for Telstra, and according to recent stats put out by Telstra this year alone more than 45 million minutes of AFL and NRL content has been streamed on mobile devices.

Last year consumers streamed more than 120 million minutes of live matches on mobile devices, with 75 million of those minutes AFL content.

Telstra currently has exclusive access to digital sporting rights for the NRL and AFL, and recently bolstered its sports offering by now allowing users under its “Go Mobile” plan to pick up either 12 months free access to NRL and AFL streaming, or six months of free access to subscription-video-on-demand platform Presto.

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