Archive for the ‘paid content’ Category

This is a blog I originally wrote for SBS News

Modern sport means big business.

Long gone are the days when a few cents got you in the stadium to cheer on your team of part-time amateurs, who did it for love, in their spare time. Well, I’m not sure when it only cost a few cents. But just take a look at England’s bloated Premier League to see where money gets you.

Here in Australia, our sports are not as affected by the big bucks. For starters, noone else is really that interested in our multiple codes of football; even we can’t seem to agree on one.

But selling the rights to NRL and AFL football matches is certainly big money in local terms. And for the last few decades, it’s been all about TV rights.

With the latest landmark case, however, mobile streaming technologies are the new battleground.

Telstra’s deal with the AFL is worth $153 million. Well, strictly speaking it cost them $153m; what it’s worth is another matter entirely.

Nonetheless, the fact that Optus customers are able to watch the big matches just a few minutes behind their screening on terrestrial TV is obviously a  concern for Telstra, and thus came the court case.

And it was Optus that won this landmark proceeding against the AFL, NRL and Telstra in relation to its TV Now service. The app enables Optus user to  watch TV shows just a few minutes after they’ve gone to air (whether it should be called ‘TV just after’ is up for debate), and obviously,  there’s value in this for sports fans.

But value is what drives sports broadcasting rights. Why pay big money for mobile rights to a game if it’s not exclusive?

The judge in the case said it was not Optus making the ‘recording’, it was the individual who was ‘shifting’ their viewing, so 2006 amendments  to the 1968 copyright act held.

“Even though Optus provided all the significant technology for making, keeping and playing the recording, I considered that in substance this was no different to a person using equipment or technology in his or her own home or elsewhere to copy or record a broadcast”, he said.

So, even though the recording was done in the cloud, it’s the same as using your VCR to tape your favourite show; no copyright breaching here.

Naturally, there are big implications for sports. How can sports bodies establish a value for internet rights with rulings like this?

The football codes say they are likely to appeal, but, of course, victory is not guaranteed.

“If it ultimately is held, what will the major sporting codes do in response given sales of mobile rights is becoming an important revenue stream?” asked Ian Robertson, a Managing Partner at Holding Redlich lawyers.

“Running these sports is an expensive operation.”

And he’s right. You only have to look at the AFL’s recruitment of former NRL star Israel Folau. $4.3m was coughed up for a three-year deal. The average AFL player is set to earn over $300,000 a year by 2016,according to The Herald Sun.

Sport is becoming more, and more of a business. They’ll always be looking for new revenue streams.

It’s a vicious circle. A more entertaining match requires more money to fund it. But ultimately, that money comes from sports fans, with higher ground fees and ever bigger broadcasting deals, via whatever medium. Tack on to that more charges to watch and more Burger King advertising in your life (‘the Whopper has also celebrated being the Official Burger of the AFL ‘). Fantastic. Give me the leagues of 50 years ago.

In the strange universe of English football, television revenue has gone hand in hand with the fortunes of Russian oligarchs and Gulf Sheikhs to transform the league beyond recognition, catapulting average teams to the top of the league. Manchester City? Are you joking? A generation of  millionaires created while working fans cough up small fortunes to watch games in the stadium or at home.

Money has brought the world’s stars together to create beautiful football – but how much more beautiful, and bloated – can it get?

While we’re not there yet in Australia, for Ian Robertson, should the AFL and NRL not be victorious against Telstra in protecting their new cashflow portal – your mobile handset – there’s likely to be a knock at the government’s door.

“Sponsorship and sales is a very important part of their revenue stream…the question is what are they going to do about it? I’d say they’re likely to lobby the government”, he told SBS.

In the unlikely event that this new revenue stream is not protected for the money machine that is professional sport, revenue will be hit.

But you know what? I’m pretty sure those players aren’t going to go hungry any time soon.

They’re up to their necks in official burgers, for starters.

Amusing as they might be, attacks on the websites of supporters of tougher copyright legislation could tarnish the legitimate protests of Wikipedia and others.

“TANGO DOWN #Megaupload  Fight for Internet Freedom!” went the tweet from the LulzSecITALY account, and it was like the heady days of last year when the hacking group had every newsroom around the world wondering which organisation’s website was to go down next.

Read the rest of this post @SBS.

An interesting piece there was in OpenDemocracy this week on Investigative Comment.

Oodles has been written about who the hell is going to fund investigative journalism in the coming years. From my own experience working for mainstream media organisations, it is not going to be easy. That’s why new set ups such as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, replete with philanthropic assistance, are going to be so important.  But there is plenty they can’t do.

Interestingly, the winner of this year’s Bevins Prize for Investigative Journalism went not to a classic ‘journalist’, but to Clare Sambrook, part of a team from End Child Detention Now. They worked on exposing the issue of child detention in the UK, and bringing it to a wider audience.

Increasingly, it is going to be up to die-hard campaigners to bring such information to the fore in a world where media organisations aren’t putting up the same amount of cash to expose information as vested interest groups are forking out to keep it hidden.

As an aside, Sambrook goes on to explain in the above-linked piece as to why the myth of ‘fair and balanced’ journalism needs to be debunked, or rather coupled with comment and opinion writing. No one wants comment from someone who hasn’t put in the hard yards and phone calls, she says, and wholly impartial journalism can only truly be expected in the true sense of reporting facts.

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Just thought I’d post quickly in relation to last night’s Media Watch on the ABC. If you live outside of Australia, or indeed live in Australia but missed it, it’s well worth watching. Not only is it on the seemingly never-ending debate about paying for content, it’s got what every college-journalist shamefully strives for – conflict!

A great analysis of the war of words between the ABC’s chief Mark Scott and the Murdochs. Well, I’m not sure if Rupert and James are that bothered about the ABC when, in an  age where newspapers and broadcasters increasingly occupy the same space,  it’s clearly the BBC that poses the bigger commercial problem – but the arguments are the same wherever a strong public broadcaster offers online content.

It’s especially interesting comparing the ABC vs News Ltd and the rest spat against the BBC vs News Lts and the rest spat. Although clearly the smaller player, the ABC seems to operate with a lot more confidence than the Beeb. The obvious answer to this is the less visible model of charging the consumer – most punters would probably prefer to have funding quietly taken from their taxes than loudly receive threatening letters to cough up a licence-fee in the mail.

Something the show didn’t go into quite enough detail over, I’d argue, is the role of public broadcasting. Maybe the BBC and ABC should be forced to dump the content that doesn’t play a vital role in democracy? Strictly Come Dancing might be a good laugh (not for me, of course), but is it a good use of tax and licence-fee money? It would rob Murdoch of one part of his argument- for about 30 seconds – if the essential forms of journalism that don’t sell The Sun or Sydney’s Daily Telegraph – in terminal decline on TV as they are – were protected from the storm while entertainment was left to HBO. After all, they do it best.

It would be hard for anyone to argue that a crucial role in uncovering injustice, lies, deception and corruption of power is not currently played by publicly-funded broadcasters – which, of course, includes their online offerings. If the state-funded model (such as the ABC) is to survive another few decades, surely it will have to be stripped down and refined to provide what it does best – an essential source of quality investigative journalism, news and current affairs. And you know what? Far more of it.

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A piece in today’s Financial Times focuses on US start-up Journalism Online – reporting that more than 500 newspapers and magazines are joining the ‘online payment platform’. The idea is a one-stop payment shop for a whole host of providers.

Lately – and especially since Rupert Murdoch threw his (renewed) weight behind charging for content- I’ve heard numerous commentators state that if it can be made easy to pay, then people will do so. Even Charlie Brooker has been on the case .

Most likely, a model like Journalism Online’s is the way to go. Whether it will be them that succeed is another question, but the interesting thing is the reasons they think it will work.  Describing ‘Why Readers Will Pay For Online News’, the company seems to simply be stating ‘Why News Organisations Can’t Keep Offering Content For Free’. These are clearly not the same thing – just because your news organisation (the founders are, I understand, former journalists) can’t survive without revenue being kept up, does not mean that people will pay for it. Try looking from the other side.

Personally, I think that those that have the money, and the desire for quality news, will slowly come to the acceptance that they will need to pay a small amount for it. Millions will not pay, and will get their news from secondary sources. But if the price is right (ie , low – think how internationally popular British papers, for instance, would see readers drop off  if readers in poorer countries were forced to pay an amount that was deemed reasonable in Britain), they’ll make themselves some money.

But publishers shouldn’t forget that different people have different means. The FT points out in the aforementioned piece that the Wall Street Journal and the FT themselves have been succesful at implementing paid models. Well, I think we can all agree that firstly, most readers of the FT and WSJ are searching for niche news. But arguably more importantly, most readers of the WSJ and FT are not short of a bob or two. What works for them may not keep others going.  As someone who has essentially lost a job twice this year due to media organisations/content creators spending more than they bring in, I can agree that this has to be fixed soon. But just because turkies don’t vote for Christmas, we can’t assume cost-free turkies wouldn’t go down equally well,  if not better, than their free range, organic grain-fed cousins.

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