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#OptusNRL and the Future of Sports Broadcasting

February 7, 2012
Back in October last year, I wrote about watching a live video stream of a hockey game between Australia and New Zealand, and that I was “struck by the fact that this is the future of sports broadcasting”. A landmark decision last week – referenced on Twitter as #optusnrl – has brought this issue to mainstream attention.

Last week, the Federal Court of Australia found in favour of Optus in a copyright case brought by the Australian Football League (AFL), the National Rugby League (NRL) and Telstra (see further Blake Dawson’s case summary).

The case centred on the Optus TV Now service which allowed Optus customers to watch recordings of free-to-air TV with just a two minute delay. At stake were the exclusive rights bought by Telstra to stream live coverage of football matches to mobile devices.

While I’m not going to debate the legal aspects to the case, an insightful piece from Stilgherrian in today’s Sydney Morning Herald draws the link between the Optus TV Now case and the fact that technology is now at the point where a direct connection can exist between the sport and its audience:

“The National Broadband Network will enable sporting bodies to cut out the middlemen entirely, except where government anti-siphoning laws force some games to be shown free.”

I came to pretty much the same conclusion last year, with more of a focus on the implications for ‘fringe’ sports:

“…what better way to do that than by providing direct access to the Australian public … with the improvements in bandwidth that will come with the rollout of the NBN, watching a live broadcast of a sporting event – no matter how ‘fringe’ – will become commonplace.”

That said, I don’t think we’ve seen the end of legal action on #optusnrl.

(Pictured: “Kookaburras Hockey”, rosswebsdale, available under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) licence.)

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