Australian Article: Pay TV may get big events
SPORTS fans may have to switch to pay TV or new digital channels to see top events as more matches slip away from free-to-air networks.
Free-to-air TV networks now get first pick of rights to broadcast a number of key sports events.
These include the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games, Melbourne Cup, AFL and NRL matches, rugby union and league Tests, the majority of cricket Tests and limited-overs internationals involving Australia, selected international football matches, top golf and tennis tournaments, and motor sports series.
Free-to-air networks have until 12 weeks before an event to show interest in acquiring rights before the rights are offered to pay TV.
But Federal Communications Minister Helen Coonan today flagged a "use it or lose it" scheme, which will start on January 1 next year, for sports on the anti-siphoning list.
The changes will mean the TV rights of events will be removed from the list if free-to-air networks do not show an interest in acquiring them, permanently depriving free-to-air networks of the right to make the first bid on them.
The definition of "use" is yet to be settled after talks with the industry in the next few months, but it could mean some events have to be shown live on free-to-air TV or they may migrate to pay TV or other digital technology.
The minister will retain control over which events are taken off the list, more events are likely to trickle across to pay TV, the internet and digital channels.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority is monitoring how free-to-air TV networks are using their sports broadcasting rights in a bid to determine what events can migrate.
"There are over 1000 events on the anti-siphoning list and quite clearly some of them are not used," Senator Coonan said today.
"I think a lot of consumers get very frustrated when free-to-airs don't show certain things that they are expecting.
"Somebody complained to me that other day that one of the TV stations cancelled the golf two days running."
But, the minister said, some form of anti-siphoning list, which is to be completely reviewed in 2010, would remain in place for the foreseeable future.
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