Posts Tagged ‘Media convergence’

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.

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Since independence, Nigeria has been a fractured country. Multiple ethnicities and languages, and a sharp divide between Muslim and Christian majorities in the north and south. Not to mention plenty of corruption, oil to argue over, dealing with the IMF….yadda yadda. I don’t profess to have ever visited, but I find the whole situation pretty interesting. So with petrol price riots (seemingly?) combining with sectarian violence (Boko Haram in the north, and what appears to be knock-on attacks on mosques and other Muslim targets in the south), I banged out some features for SBS today. First an LVO (unfortunately requiring a little more file footage than was ideal; the agencies had filed very little when we wanted it up by the lunchtime rush), then an attempt at mapping the main events since the start of the year. 

Below, a good old Google Map with an attempt at rounding up what’s happened where since New Year’s Day. Let’s hope this ends well for Nigerians. 

We’ve launched our federal election portal at SBS -Vote 2010-  mostly a World News Australia affair with some input from other departments.

As such, we’ve been working on getting small packages for online news up, condensing the morning’s campaign by early afternoon.

I’ve written and cut a few this week such as the ‘Red Faces’ package and the climate troubles piece here, and we’ll be trying to get one out each weekday for the duration of the Australian federal election.

It’s been a help using the new quantel system with pre-ingested material – all part of SBS’s shift to digital, and a real help with the speed needed for online news. Final Cut Pro is naturally a better editing tool – but the integration with raw footage is not to be sniffed at.

Turns out quantel has a few nice features of its own, anyway.

As the onus is on speed – along with accuracy and journalistic integrity, to be sure – some of the cuts in these packages are less than perfect.

But with several hours less than our TV counterparts to wrap proceedings up in, we think it’s a fine job we’re doing.

Media convergence at its finest should be on show this Sunday night for comprehensive online coverage of the leadership debate.

Bring on the polls.

The Sydney Morning Herald
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The Managing Director of the ABC, Mark Scott, recently gave a speech to the Melbourne Press Club in which he outlined his visions for ‘Aunty’ in the years to come.

There were anumber of interesting takes on major themes in journalism – the need to keep investigative journalism strong, using social-networks for promotional causes (‘reaching audiences’ etc), and the tabloidisation of trusted brands in the online space.

“I wonder sometimes if the instant metrics generated in the online world are increasing the temptation to be tabloid in choosing news, pictures and headlines – to draw the eyeballs and the click-through – just as a tabloid designs page one to drive response from the newsstand”, Scott said.

Coming from several years back in the UK, it’s fair to say that the leading broadsheets on the left and right, The Guardian and The Telegraph, have done reasonably well in avoiding this dumbing down. I carried out a dissertation for a masters around 18 months ago, and found despite the fact articles about popstars and football rated very well indeed – usually at the top – online editors still resisted putting them in the most prominent positions, more often than not. Search engines, in-bound links and general curiosity brought people to them. Leaving aside tabloids proper, the same could not be said of ‘midrange’ papers, namely the Daily Mail, which pursue far more celebrity based ‘news’ online than it does in print – and does well in the ratings because of it.

“There is nothing wrong with tabloids”, Scott went on. “I hasten to add, nodding in the direction of journalistic colleagues from the Herald Sun. But in great newspaper markets – like New York and London, Melbourne and Sydney – the tabs and the broadsheets have operated side by side, offering different content to different segments of the market. They expressed themselves differently in many ways.

“In the online space, however, that distinction blurs – tabloids and broadsheets tend to behave the same way, as if the online audience’s primary need is to be entertained. The result is the kind of editorial thinking that means we get far more coverage – as has been noted – of Paris Hilton than Paris, France. More Angelina and Brad than Angola and Chad.”

There’s a lot in this, especially, at first glance, in Australia. You only have to look at the Sydney Morning Herald and the distinctions one can draw between the broadsheet and smh.com.au. The paper has fallen a long way with Fairfax’s financial issues arguably at the core, but as for the online offering, it’s getting harder to brand the smh.com.au website a ‘serious’ news site. Visit the site every day for a week, and judging by the homepage, it would near impossible not to call it a tabloid.

As for Australia’s public service broadcasters, the ABC and the SBS, it will be an interesting challenge in the coming months and years to ensure the online offerings do not stray too far from what viewers and listeners honed on what can arguably called ‘broadsheet’ principles come to expect – the ABC and SBS do not create tabloid TV – even if online metrics are telling us to do something else.

After all, this is what state-funded journalism and ‘news’ is all about.

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This is an article based on an interview I carried out in August ’08 with one of the founders of Hubdub – the news prediction game. It’s an interesting mix between something like Digg and fantasy football, and could become an increasingly popular way of engaging with the news. The interview appears courtesy of cmypitch.com and the start-up profiles page, where there are plenty more reviews of hot new, mostly UK and techy, start-up companies.

Securing VC funding last November before launching the public beta (test) phase on June 20th this year , Hubdub is essentially a community that takes on board the success of news-sharing sites such asdigg.com but adds the addictive element of prediction and gambling – for virtual money and league positioning.

In CEO and founder Nigel Eccles words ‘It’s a prediction and forecasting platform. It’s all about creating predictions with your friends. The mission is to have predictions on any topic of public interest.’ So, the fun is to make predictions with friends and see how it turns out a couple of weeks down the line (or whenever the time-frame is up), while there are also those using the forecasts as a useful tool to follow news stories. If you think David Miliband is a sure-thing for next Prime Minister of Great Britain, you can make the prediction and get friends and others to make theirs – with the low odds on you being correct, if it actually happens when the deadline is up, you’ll earn a virtual packet and shoot to the top of the league.

Eccles explains how the idea came to him: ‘I used to work forslotter.com (a gambling website) and so I was always familiar with the technology. We’d always use betting odds for things, such as Big Brother, but I realised most people don’t understand them. I thought here’s a way to simplify them… I was following the start of the London mayoral elections last year, and thought this would be a great way (giving percentage likelihoods). Plus, I’m really into news… You could read thousands of articles to try and know the outcome on something, or just come to the site to see what’s most likely.’

So why is it based in Edinburgh but focused on the US? ‘I’ve always loved US politics, but that isn’t the only reason – you kind of have to be in one or the other– US users aren’t interested in football, and it is a bigger market . Although in saying that we have an active premiership prediction area, and 10% of our users are UK based.’

And where is the money coming from, you may ask? For the last few months, they’ve been focused on user ‘engagement’ and distribution (not least through strong search engine optimisation), not marketing or revenue. But Eccles says there is a clear plan: ‘While advertising is an opportunity, we’re excited about market data and we’re building a revenue model around that. The forecasts are actually quite accurate – so for businesses it could be very valuable.’ Whether that happens, an accurate prediction is certainly needed to find out. In the meantime though,cmypitch.com predicts it will grow.

This is interesting. ProPublica, the non-profit news source with a focus on investigative journalism (‘in the public interest’), has hired a graduate from a journalism programming course.

The combination of programming and news judgement, meaning a focus on apps and interactive features, is, according to journalism.co.uk, the reason the Medill graduate has been taken on board.  It certainly seems a logical advancement for online news production. Is s/he as good at programming as working? Probably not. But the strings on my bow are all of varying tightness, if you know what I mean – and worried others will always whinge.

Should older journalists be quaking in their boots? Probably not. But any one-trick journalistic pony under the age of 40 should be – or should at least be learning. Mind you, if they havn’t seen the writing on the wall by now, there probably is no hope.

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A picture from the top of the Geoman Press at ...
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Just a quick post to express my enthusiasm for a new three-parter on the beeb, from The Money Programme, on the growth of online media and online news, and what this means for newspapers.

Fronted by the always enthusiastic Janet Street-Porter, the first episode of Media Revolution gives a great rundown of some of the issues facing the dead-tree media, and correctly concludes (in my humble opinion) that the online media revolution will not kill newspapers, but simply kill the weak. Let’s see if The Independent, The Express, and even The Mirror are around in a few years.

Also of note is a trip to News International‘s new printing press, an ode to dead-tree media on a massive scale. Murdoch even pops up for a few comments, and as ever comes across as a man in love with the medium- even if seeing a stop to his aquisitions probably is in the interests of the fourth estate.

All in all, great TV – which UK users (and others capable of masking their IP address!) can catch on the iPlayer.

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