New broadcasting rules means more live sports for viewers on digital channels.
More live sporting events will be played on free-to-air television after the government announced changes to its anti-siphoning list.
The list, which details games which must be played on free-to-air television, has been the subject of much lobbying by key industry stakeholders including TV networks, the pay TV industry, sporting bodies and the community. The long-awaited outcome splits the list into two tiers with different rules for each.
Tier A includes the AFL and NRL grand finals, Australian Open singles finals, Bathurst 1000, Twenty20 Cricket, FIFA World Cup finals, Rugby Union World Cup, test matches involving Australia, Melbourne Cup, and Grand Prix events staged in Australia. These events must be played live, in full, right around the country.
Tier B includes four weekly AFL matches and finals, three weekly NRL matches and finals, summer and winter Olympics, Commonwealth Games, State of Origin, Australian Open games, golf, netball, Wimbledon finals, Rugby Union finals and more. These sports can now be played on digital channels such as ONE, GO!, 7TWO, 7mate and GEM.
Viewers who have been frustrated by Australian Open games vanishing in place of news and Home and Away may now be able to see the game continue on a digital channel if the network chooses to shift it. Previously it was banned from doing so because the government wanted to keep big ticket events on primary channels.
But there is also no requirement that events on Tier B must be played live, meaning weekly AFL and NRL games are still at the mercy of broadcasters, for up to four hours' delay.
Pay TV will now have access to four weekly AFL and five weekly NRL games. Significantly it will be able to bid directly for these, unlike previously having to buy them via free-to-air networks.
The government also introduced a "must show" clause that dictates free-to-air networks must show the events they buy or pass them onto pay TV. The "use it or lose it" clause has had some degree of success. There will be penalties for networks that do not abide.
Some details, including which AFL and NRL games will go to pay TV, are yet to be decided.
The government has also not insisted on HD for any events.
The outcome of the new list is that all the stakeholders have enjoyed something of a win, if not a complete victory. That means the government has probably got the tone just about right.
The new sports regime is expected to take effect in the new year.