AFL & NRL Threaten TV’s Future

For a group of people who don’t really follow sport all that much, we really do talk about its coverage a lot on Boxcutters. One of the reasons we do this is because sport, traditionally, leads the way in terms of pushing the technology of television.

Optus has a service called “TV Now” that works as a kind of mobile phone PVR for its customers. At the end of last month, the AFL and NRL started questioning the copyright issues related to the service.

Of course, what the two football codes were always worried about was how Optus’s service would affect its deal with Telstra.

Now that question will be for the Federal Court to decide, as Boxcutters friend and Age journo, Lucy Battersby reports:

The Federal Court will tomorrow hold a hearing on a request by Optus to restrain the AFL and NRL from suing it for breach of copyright for its TV Now service, which was launched on July 19. The service allows Optus phone and internet customers to watch AFL games on an effective delay of as little as two minutes.
It could prove to be an important test case for content rights in the era of internet television and multimedia devices.

This is a tough one for TV fans. The Telstra deal was vital for the promotion of portable TV viewing. That is, it was vital until TV Now came out.

The concept of TV Now is nothing short of brilliant and hindsight tells us it was bound to happen. Telstra may have used bad judgement but, more realistically, may have just been unlucky: Bad judgement because it did not do due diligence in researching technologies that would undermine its deal and unlucky because Optus chose this moment to remember that telecommunications is a competitive industry.

What is most confusing here is that the AFL and NRL are defending Telstra in a copyright claim rather than supporting the idea that their games will become available to an even wider audience.

If TV Now is stopped in its tracks, it will not be because Telstra made a bad deal and failed to remember caveat emptor. It will be because AFL and NRL are monsters of greed that don’t care about their fans or the games they represent. As such, it will be a loss to sport and television.

(Yes, we are aware that the title of this post might be a little too dramatic. -Ed.)

One Comment

  1. David Boxcutter says:

    I don’t see how Optus have a leg to stand on. They claim it’s no different than recording to a DVR in your home, but in reality it is completely different. When you record to your DVR at home you aren’t re-distributing your content to thousands of other people. That’s exactly what Optus are doing here.

    Sure, Telstra and the AFL are greedy bastards. You’ll get no argument from me on that count. But if TV Now is stopped in its tracks, it will be because it’s illegal under copyright law.

    I’m also failing to see what’s so “brilliant” about the concept of TV Now – it’s not a new or novel concept at all. Just a prohibited one. People have been recording TV and distributing it via the intertubes for years.

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