Free-to-air networks have won two battles: winnig a bid to gain a prominent position on smart TVs and also ensuring they are the first choice for key sporting moments.
Networks such as Seven, Nine, Network 10 and the ABC have been fighting to ensure that their apps are prioritised on new smart TVs, as opposed to international streamers such as Netflix.
Now Australia’s communications minister Michelle Rowland has sided with the networks, introducing a bill that will ensure apps such as ABC iview and 7plus will appear before the international streamers.
In a second win for free TV, the proposed legislative change will also give the free networks priority when bidding for big events such as the Olympics, AFL, women’s sports and para-sports.
“Our existing analogue laws haven’t been updated to reflect the digital age,” Rowland said in a written statement. “The rise of global streaming services means Australians could miss out on the free content and services they have enjoyed for generations.”
This move will stop paid streaming services such as Optus Sport and Kayo Sports from outbidding free-to-air networks and putting events behind a paywall.
Free-to-air networks that have a pay-walled service such as Nine and Network 10 will not be restricted from buying the content and putting it behind a walled service.
Rowland also revealed plans to add para-sports and women’s sports to the anti-siphoning list.
Seven welcomed the news, with CEO James Warburton saying “The new prominence framework ensures that free local TV services are easily discoverable and acknowledges the importance of these service in a modern TV environment”.
“We appreciate the Government updating the anti-siphoning scheme to ensure online services cannot acquire the free-to-air TV rights before the broadcasters have had an opportunity. However, by not including the free digital rights, Australians who only access free TV services through the internet may be deprived of free iconic Australian sports.
“We look forward to working constructively with the Government to ensure these reforms are truly modernising and take into account how Australians are watching and will be watching TV into the future.”
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