Telstra underpins sports rights as key content

James McGrath
By James McGrath | 11 May 2015

Telstra has doubled down on the importance of its digital sporting rights, just as negotiations for NRL and AFL broadcast deals continue to bubble away.

The mobile provider has announced the formation of Go Mobile, a plan aimed at getting families to bundle their mobile devices together.

As part of the pitch, Telstra will allow users under the 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 (SVOD) platform Presto.

The deal further underlines the importance of over-the-top services such as sports streaming and entertainment services as the mobile war between Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone heats up.

Optus currently offers new subscribers six months of free access to Netflix, while Vodafone offers access to Stan and Spotify content on select mobile deals.

According to 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.

The new offering comes as both the AFL and NRL rights are in market.

This morning key advertising figures said the rights risked being blown out of all proportion with TV networks increasingly seeking live premium sport as a way to lock down consumers.

Speaking to the Australian Financial Review, IPG Mediabrands global chief executive Henry Tajer said it was getting a touch ridiculous.

“The AFL, NRL, and Cricket Australia are getting to the point that if they don't moderate their aggression for increased valuation on their rights they are going to implode,” Tajer was quoted as saying.

An overlooked part of the overall rights deal, however, is the digital rights, which includes live streaming.

While Telstra remains in the box seat to retain digital rights, especially with the support of Foxtel, there is a growing thought that either TV broadcasters or the codes themselves could make a play for the rights.

NRL marketing boss Lewis Pullen previously told AdNews that the timing isn't right for the NRL to make a play themselves.

“That is always a possibility, but it's unlikely during the current rights cycle. Maybe the next one, but it's probably a bit too soon for the current cycle,” he said.

SVOD platforms such as Stan have even been mentioned, although with an overall $100 million joint venture budget it is thought they would be locked out of negotiations.

AdNews is seeking comment from Telstra.

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