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Telstra ups live sports offering with netball broadcast rights

Telstra will compete with Optus on live sport broadcasts by adding the national netball league to its digital rights stable, with the Telstra TV also due to break the 200,000 user mark in June.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Telstra has announced that it has purchased the broadcast rights for the Australian netball league for the next five years, with plans to live stream every game across mobile devices, as well as two games each week on its video-streaming device the Telstra TV and two on the Nine Network.

Michele Garra, executive director of Telstra Media, said it is part of the telecommunications carrier's plan for including more media offerings in its contracts.

"We have a strategy around our media assets, which is basically sport and entertainment, particularly in the sports area, to try and bring every major Australian sport live to our customers and to Australians more generally, live on your mobile," Garra told ZDNet in an interview.

Garra emphasised that all Australians will be able to live stream the games -- not only Telstra customers -- although it will be metered and on a paid subscription for non-Telstra users.

"The differentiator for us is that we'll offer every game, but we'll offer it to every Australian too, so obviously you'll get it for free as part of your plan with Telstra, but even if you're not a Telstra customer, you can access them," she said.

Conversely, Optus -- which is also making the move from pure telco to a multimedia company -- has announced plans to offer access to the English Premier League games for the next three seasons to Optus customers exclusively.

According to the Telstra exec, more than 2 million customers streamed the Australian Football League (AFL) and the National Rugby League (NRL) during the last week, with the Telstra network able to withstand the high use of data with only a few hiccups at the beginning of the season.

"We did more than 2.2 million streams last week across the round for AFL and NRL, so that's a massive amount of content for us to deliver across our network. We have Australia's best network and we're able to really leverage it for that live sport delivery," Garra said.

"In the early couple of rounds, we did have a couple of technical issues that we were able to address ... we were able to get on top of those pretty quickly."

Calling netball "the largest participation sport" in Australia, with 1.2 million people playing it nationwide, Telstra noted that it has had a sponsorship arrangement in place with Netball Australia since 2010.

The netball offering will be made a part of post-paid plans, although the pricing and packages are yet to be finalised with the beginning of the 2017 netball season.

The deal has also seen Telstra become the official telecommunications partner of Netball Australia, through which Telstra will become more involved in exclusive ticketing opportunities and also sponsor the league. Similarly, Optus recently became the telco partner for the Australian Olympic Team and Paralympic Team.

Garra also revealed that the Telstra TV is close to breaking the 200,000 user barrier, through both bundling them in home broadband plans and selling the device separately.

"It's doing really well, it's exceeding our expectations ... we'll have more than 200,000 in market by the end of June," she said.

"There is a volume of those that are people buying the device, but they predominantly do take them with our broadband plans."

She added that the Telstra TV was more successful than the Apple TV and Chromecast in the Australian market during the last quarter.

During its financial results report for the first six months of the 2015-16 financial year, Telstra recorded its media business growing by 2.4 percent to AU$476 million revenue in total, with AU$350 million of this from its 50 percent stake in Foxtel -- an increase of 3.7 percent, with subscriber growth of 17.9 percent.

Revenue for its IPTV business, including the Telstra TV, was AU$34 million, a decrease of 19 percent. IPTV subscribers grew by 17.9 percent, to 224,000. Telstra reported there being 43,000 Telstra TVs in the market as of December 31. BigPond Movie downloads numbered 2.2 million for the year, a drop of 17.6 percent.

The Telstra TV, launched in October, enables customers to access catch-up and streaming services SBS On Demand, 9JumpIn, Plus7, Tenplay, ABC iView, BigPond Movies, Stan, Presto, and Netflix.

The device costs AU$109, or is available for free as part of Telstra's two highest-tier broadband bundles. Only usage of Presto and BigPond Movies is unmetered over the Telstra TV, with the remaining services to count towards the customer's data allowance.

Netflix was the most popular streaming service used on Telstra TV as of the end of last year, followed by YouTube, Presto, Stan, and BigPond Movies, Telstra director of At Home Media Serkan Honeine said in December.

The Roku media box runs on a Dual Arm A9 1Ghz processor with 512MB of DRAM, 256MB Flash NAND storage, an HDMI 1.4 port, a USB 2.0 port, and a microSD slot.

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