Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tracking The Rights

The BBC’s new simulcast service fell short at my first visit when I tried to access the simulcast of the highlights of the England v New Zealand rugby game last evening; the programme was apparently not available. The reason for this, I deduce, is that the BBC does not have the internet rights for highlights despite having the television rights for highlights some three hours after the game ending (it was broadcast live on a Sky Sports channel).

Meanwhile, England viewers were treated to a much better game in which my countrymen put Australia to the sword. However, I suspect that the majority of them would have preferred to watch the England game.

But they can’t, since Mr Murdoch’s company (well, to all intents and purposes he controls BSkyB) outbid England for the rights. In the meantime the BBC were spending taxpayers’ money on getting Formula 1 motor racing off ITV.

If this all sounds convoluted and complicated, then welcome to the world of 21st century television rights, where very little is set up for the benefit or convenience of the viewer.

Anyhow, I decided to play detective and track down who did own the internet highlight rights in the UK.

Some hours later I’m none the wiser.

There were a few candidates:

Mediazone – runs Rugby Zone, which has a good range of live and on demand content, but all seem geoblocked in the UK (but you only find this out once you try and register the user-unfriendly site); in fact they do tell you what the usage rights available to you as a user are:

Viewing Restrictions:

·  Live in USA & Canada only (streaming begins 5 mins before kick-off)

·  On Demand / Download is available 2-4 hours after the match in USA & Canada

·  On Demand / Download is available on a 24-hour delay in the rest of world, excluding New Zealand and UK

·  This content is NOT AVAILABLE to users in New Zealand and UK in any form

BBC – seem to have minute long clips on their news sport site, but nowhere to watch extended highlights; this is all the much vaunted iPlayer has available when it comes to rugby – a single on demand radio show.

Setanta Sports – own many rugby rights and buried on their website you’ll find that they show some content online; but, as far as I could see, they don’t tell have any international rugby rights for the UK

Sky – have an online service, but, even when I was a Sky Sports subscriber, I could not access it since, despite paying for SkySports, I was not a direct Sky subscriber, so couldn’t receive their simulcast service.

It is, as they say, a mad, mad, mad, mad world which does little more than hack off viewers and put them off the sports they try and follow. Someone, somewhere, has lost the opportunity to charge me to watch these highlights and the public broadcasters have failed their viewers when it comes to online provision.

All of this is part of the reason why I recently accepted the role as Non-executive Chairman of Rights Tracker, a company which provides software that enables rights owners to track and maximise the revenues from their assets. Everyone can win from the creation of an effective rights marketplace for rugby viewing as well as many, many other sports and entertainment vehicles.

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