Free TV welcomes anti-siphoning addition

Free TV welcomes anti-siphoning addition

Free TV has welcomed the addition of Matildas games in the FIFA Women’s World Cup to the anti-siphoning list, but urged further reform to ensure the scheme meets the needs of the modern TV audience.

The move last week by the federal government will mean their matches must be offered to Free to Air broadcasters before Subscription TV providers.

The anti-siphoning list now includes: every match of the tournament involving the senior Australian representative team; the tournament final; and qualifying matches involving the senior Australian representative team that is played in Australia.

Free TV Chair, Gregory Hywood said: “Live and free sport on TV remains a crucial part of the Australian way of life. Minister Rowland and the Albanese Government recognise this and we enthusiastically welcome the Government’s proposal to extend the current anti-siphoning framework to subscription streaming platforms so that the iconic sporting moments cannot disappear exclusively behind the paywalls of streaming providers.

“This is something that Free TV has been calling for almost 10 years. Without it, we risk losing the cultural moments that bring us together as a nation. Australians should not be forced to pay to watch these events that they currently enjoy for free and this is more important than ever with current cost of living pressures.”

Free TV CEO, Bridget Fair said: “You only need to look at the record numbers watching the Matildas triumphant World Cup campaign to see that Australians turn to their Free TV broadcasters for the best in sporting events. More than 11 million people watched the Matildas in their brave fight to make it to the Cup Final. And we expect to see huge numbers continue in the current AFL and NRL footy finals.

“Minister Rowland has also recognised that the list itself also needs to be modernised. She has acted quickly to already place the Matildas on the list and has addressed the inherent gender bias in the current list with proposals to include other women’s sports that are growing in importance as part of the cultural life of our nation.

“This is probably the most important review of the anti-siphoning rules since they were established. One area that the Government must get right is to see the rules recognise that the way Australians watch their Free TV services is gradually evolving and here we would urge Minister Rowland to go further than the discussion paper recommends.

“Millions of Australians continue to watch sport on TV through the linear broadcast delivery. But as audience preferences evolve, more Australians are opting to view free local TV services through a live stream in a BVOD (broadcaster video on demand) app. And in many modern housing developments, this might be the only way they can access their Free TV broadcasters as aerials may not be installed.”

The proportion of the audience choosing BVOD to watch free sport has more than doubled in the last three years. Up to 20% of audiences are now choosing a free TV BVOD option for live and free sport, and this is particularly the case with younger demographics.

However, Subscription TV platform Foxtel made a submission to the anti-siphoning review called “Grass Ceiling: The Unintended Consequences of Listing Women’s Sports” by economist Dr Geoff Edwards. The paper argued listing women’s sports on the anti-­siphoning list would have “no practical effect” and would result in “unintended adverse consequences”.

“Most women’s sports are already more freely available for viewing than men’s versions that are listed, and this is likely to remain the case without listing the women’s versions,” Dr Edwards said in the paper.

“This reflects the need of sports bodies to maximise exposure and grow audiences, engagement and participation in women’s sports.”

Additional source: The Australian