Yesterday, Telstra coughed up $155 million for the right to broadcast AFL matches to mobile phones and Internet-enabled TVs. That means more flexible options for viewers, but the flexibility won't come for free.
There's a lot of detail still to be revealed about the new broadcast deal, which kicks in from the 2012 season. Channel Seven and Foxtel have the TV rights; Seven will offer four games a week (though it may choose to sell one match a week to Channel Ten), while Foxtel will show all nine games live as they happen. Games will generally be shown live or near-live on free-to-air television, though the exact role of secondary digital channels in achieving this hasn't been finalised.
One thing that's pretty clear is that you'll have to cough up for pay TV if you want to be certain of seeing matches in HD. While some matches will potentially end up on 7Mate (or One), that's not going to guarantee that you'll see your favourite team playing.
But what if you want to abandon TV broadcasts altogether? This is where the Telstra deal gets potentially interesting. It will broadcast all games live to customers using its Next G mobile network on smartphones or tablets, and make replays available immediately. Telstra hasn't yet announced pricing for this. It currently charges $49.95 a year to be able to watch match replays 12 hours after the game, and it seems safe to assume live matches will cost more. On the other hand, even doubling the price would make it a much cheaper option than paying up for Foxtel.
Telstra will also offer live broadcasts to users of its T-Box IP TV box. Subscribers to the Foxtel on T-Box service will get access to all matches as well as replays and the AFL Game Analyser, while one match a week will be freely available to all T-Box users. Telstra says it is open to negotiating deals with other IP service providers to offer those options as well.
Would you be tempted to pay Telstra rather than Foxtel if you could save money? Or are you happy just to stick with what gets offered on free-to-air? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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