Foxtel seeks sports ‘anti-siphoning’ shake-up

Australian pay-TV operator Foxtel is to lobby the federal government for a number of top sporting fixtures not played on Australian soil to be taken off a list of events which protects live broadcasts of major sporting events on free-to-air TV, seeking a shake-up of the government’s approach to future sports rights deals.

Such events could include Wimbledon and the US Open tennis; Ashes cricket Tests played in England; golf’s US Masters; World Cup football qualification matches played by the Australian national team in other countries; and tests played by national teams, the Kangaroos in rugby league and the Wallabies in rugby union, in other countries.

Foxtel CEO Richard Freudenstein is arguing for a split, or two-tiered, approach to sports rights on sports under the anti-siphoning laws – which would allow separate bidding processes for free-to-air and pay-TV rights. “A system where rights were split, so that the networks were entitled to acquire the free-to-air rights – but where others were not blocked from obtaining other rights until after the networks had done so – would solve the gatekeeper problem and reduce regulatory complexity,” Freudenstein said in a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia in Sydney.

“Under this scheme there would be nothing to stop the free-to-airs acquiring exclusive rights to those events, if they were prepared to pay the market price,” he said, suggesting the result would be more money and control for the sports codes; major events still seen on free-to-air TV; certainty for subscription TV and other players; and reduced compliance costs for everyone.”

Foxtel and Fox Sports are to make a formal submission to Communication Minister Malcolm Turnbull along these lines as part of his review looking to simplify the regulation of the media.

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