Telstra announces A-League broadcast deal

Telstra will live stream all A-League games via a new app thanks to a sub-licensing deal with Foxtel and Fox Sports.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor
(Image: FFA)

Telstra has announced securing the digital broadcast rights of Australia's A-League football tournament out to 2023 through a sub-licensing deal with Fox Sports and Foxtel, with the telco to live stream the games via an app.

Announcing the deal on Thursday with Football Federation Australia (FFA), Telstra said it will develop and launch a new My Football Live App, with live matches available via the Telstra Live Pass.

Live Pass will be free and data-free to Telstra mobile customers, while non-customers can purchase it for AU$99.99 per year, AU$16.99 per month, or AU$4.99 per week.

All A-League games will be streamed live on Telstra, as well as some W-League, FFA Cup, Socceroos, and Matildas games, such as home friendlies, early round Asian Cup qualification games, and 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Telstra, which will own 35 percent of the Fox Sports-Foxtel entity once the merger occurs later this year, said the app would also contain news, information, and video content.

"Telstra will also become the exclusive telecommunications partner of the FFA under the deal, and a technology partner of all FFA properties including the Hyundai A-League, Caltex Socceroos, and Westfield Matildas," FFA and Telstra said.

Telstra group executive of Media and CMO Joe Pollard said the offering would complement the telco's AFL, NRL, AFLW, and netball apps, which saw 1.5 million subscribers in 2017.

"Our media rights strategy was to deliver content to as many Australians as possible anywhere, anytime, and this new partnership with Telstra delivers on that commitment," FFA CEO David Gallop said.

"And with women's football the fastest-growing part of the game, fans will now have the new option of watching the Westfield Matildas and Westfield W-League on the move through Telstra. This is the first of a range of innovations FFA is working on for next season."

Telstra is planning to launch the app prior to the FIFA World Cup next month, saying it would provide "regularly updated Caltex Socceroos editorial content and player profiles in time for the Socceroos' journey to Russia". Live streaming will be added to the app by the time the next FFA Cup and 2018-19 A-League season take place.

Rival telco Optus will be live streaming 2018 FIFA World Cup games, however, under a sub-licence with SBS.

Optus last week announced an over-the-top (OTT) offering for the World Cup games, which will be made available to non-customers for AU$14.99 per month across mobile, web browser, Chromecast, and Apple TV.

"For the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia, Optus Sport will be the only place where Australians can watch all 64 games in high definition, live and on-demand," Optus CEO Allen Lew said.

"We won't stop with just Premier League and the World Cup; we will continue to source other high-class top-notch football content to ensure that Optus Sport will be the home of elite soccer. So keep your ears to the ground because we hope to be able to make an imminent announcement of more exclusive soccer content coming to Optus Sport in 2019."

Optus last week additionally announced its extension of English Premier League (EPL) broadcast rights in Australia, retaining the competition for another three years out to the 2021-22 season.

"[The acquisition] feeds exactly into what our strategy is -- if you think about it, at the end of the day, where we want to take Optus is to be able to offer a premium mobile network to our customers, premium content, and all at an affordable price or a competitive price," Lew told ZDNet.

"So I think extending the Premier League for the next three seasons until 2022 allows us to continue engender in our customers' minds that we are not just about building networks."

At the same time, Optus opened up access to its sport offerings to non-Optus customers for AU$14.99 per month via Google Play and the Apple App Store.

Optus' self-described transformation into a multimedia company began with its original acquisition of the exclusive Australian broadcast rights for the EPL back in November 2015, continuing with an entertainment partnership with National Geographic last year.

Telstra has also been focused on media offerings, last week reaching a multi-year deal with TiVo Corporation to gain access to its intellectual property (IP) on devices and applications after launching the second iteration of its Telstra TV media box in October.

Telstra had announced its media revenue growing by 8.2 percent to AU$935 million during the FY17 financial year thanks to uptake of both the Telstra TV and Foxtel from Telstra. The latter made AU$777 million in revenue, growing by 8.1 percent due to 57,000 additional subscribers. There were 827,000 Telstra TV devices in the market as of June 30.

Video consumption now accounts for 38 percent of Telstra's mobile network usage -- up by 40 percent year on year -- and is forecast to rise to 75 percent of its mobile traffic within the next five years. The telco added Foxtel packages to its post-paid mobile plans last year.

Australia's third-largest telco, Vodafone, also launched its own smart TV box in March, but said it won't be buying rights to content because it believes in "content democratisation".

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