Laws a barrier to free sport on digital TV

Family watching sport on TV. | Newsreel
New anti-siphoning laws will make it harder to access free sport on digital TV services. | Photo: Robert Daly

As more Australians ditch television aerials for internet-based services, proposed anti-siphoning laws mean many would not watch free sport, according to a new report.

New Free TV research found 69 percent of Australians accessed TV via the internet and suggests millions would miss out on watching sport if the laws were not applied to streaming services.

Free TV CEO Bridget Fair said if anti-siphoning laws were not extended to digital services, around half (49 percent) of people who use free streaming services such as 9Now, 7Plus or 10 Play reported they would miss out on watching sport.

Ms Fair said the national polling found only 29 percent of Australians watch TV exclusively through an aerial and 18 percent of those were considering switching to digital soon.

She said it the proposed anti-siphoning laws were introduced 17 percent said they would reconnect their aerial and only 9 percent would sign up to paid streaming services.

“This research shows that most Australians are watching TV through the internet and this proportion will only increase as more people ditch their old-fashioned aerials and new homes are built without them,” Ms Fair.

“New anti-siphoning laws must be updated to reflect this reality, otherwise millions will be forced to buy expensive streaming subscriptions during a cost-of-living crisis or miss out altogether on the great sporting events that bind our nation together.

“All Australians deserve access to sport, regardless of their income or whether they have an antenna on their home.”

The government’s anti-siphoning bill prevents subscription streaming services such as Amazon, Apple and Disney from buying exclusive terrestrial broadcast rights to iconic sporting events like the Olympics, AFL, NRL and cricket.

“But they can still acquire exclusive digital rights and lock out the vast majority of Australians who watch free sport on services such as 7plus, 9Now and 10 Play.” Ms Fair said.

She said the Resolve polling, commissioned by Free TV Australia which represents free-to-air broadcasters including Seven, Nine and Ten, found that extending the rules to apply to streaming rights would be extremely popular.

Ms Fair said 67 percent support anti-siphoning laws and 69 percent support extending laws to digital services.