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Stream & Steam

In other parts of the footballing world, Sky are vilified. Their involvement in football is seen by supporters as a corrupting influence, shifting kickoff times and fixtures to suit the global audience and relentlessly hyping the endless clashes of top-flight teams while only occasionally looking beyond them. Mitchell & Webb produced possibly the finest excoriation of its worst features in this sketch.

We’re now into the second season of Sky Sports coverage of the NZFC, known as the Stirling Sports Premiership this season. Compared to the first season there have been clear improvements. The Thursday night kickoffs have been binned in favour of Sunday, and the occasional Saturday game. With the regular season concluding a fortnight ago, the scheduling of games indicated both semi-final games would be live on Sky.

This year there was no problem with Auckland City again hosting a semi-final, taking on Hawke’s Bay United in a gritty 1 – 0 to the home side. But as soon as the fixtures were announced, there were rumblings of disquiet about Team Wellington’s home semi-final.

It looked, initially, as if Team Wellington would be moved to the Westpac stadium and the semi-final be played as the curtain-raiser to the Wellington Phoenix v Newcastle Jets game. Understandably, Team Wellington had a strong preference to play at their training and home ground rather than the more expansive turf of the Cake Tin.

David Farrington Park

David Farrington Park

Sky’s issues were twofold. First of all, Dave Farrington Park has the same tight sidelines that are a feature of most of New Zealand’s football grounds. The restricted viewpoint from the sidelines required extra logistical input to get a clear view of the whole pitch, like the scaffold at Kiwitea Street. Secondly, as a suburban ground, Sky cited the need for a consent from Wellington Council for parking their Outside Broadcast vehicle outside of the ground. We have emailed WCC for comment on this, but haven’t had a reply at time of posting.

This provoked a reaction from supporters of Team Wellington and other NZFC clubs. It was reported at the beginning of the season that each club in the Stirling Sports Premiership paid a $30,000 fee to Sky Sports to televise games. Games were scheduled for broadcast before the season had kicked off, which included both semi-final games. Finding out that Sky couldn’t or wouldn’t fulfil their part of the deal was disappointing.

Sky’s business model has been under pressure from various factors in the last few years. The rise of streaming, the increased cost of certain rights (including those of European Football) and a sharp decline in subscribers have all been reported. They were about to face a more terrifying challenge though. Patrick Barnes.

Patrick Barnes watches proceedings. Photo © Michael Welsh (Dr yomcat shoots)

Seen here (in yellow) being an enemy of football. Photo © Michael Welsh (Dr yomcat shoots)

Stepping in with a laptop, mobile phone and video camera – Patrick offered to stream the game live on YouTube from the sidelines. It’s not the first time this has been tried in New Zealand football, Birkenhead United attempted a behind-goal angle of one of their Chatham Cup games last season, raising echoes of the first televised game in history which utilised a similarly unhelpful angle.

Tuning in on Sunday afternoon, viewers were greeted with a reasonably decent feed of the game with a clock and scores up in the left hand corner. That was already an improvement on the rather dire feed from the Fiji v All Whites game the previous day, although the emphatic commentary – tending towards the R18 as the game wore on – was about par in terms of entertainment.

At one point the stream had over 1,000 viewers and post-match the video was racking up a view count that most Stirling Sports Premiership highlights videos could only dream of. The footage found its way onto news reports of the game, featuring on the Stuff website that evening (it has since been removed) – something which could not have happened with the usual Sky timetable of televised highlights on Tuesday and YouTube highlights on Wednesday after the game.

At which point, reality set in. Within hours of the match ending, Team Wellington were issued a takedown notice from Sky Sports for infringing their exclusive rights to broadcast the game. Unlike other streaming controversies, this didn’t involve the illegal broadcast of Sky’s own footage – they had a camera at the ground to capture highlights. Instead this was Patrick’s own footage of the match, filmed using his camera.

A few hours later an edited highlights of the match was made available through the Yellow Fever, again drawing hundreds of views. This time, Patrick was threatened with prosecution if the video remained online. It too was taken down.

All in all, a bit rough. Sky may claim the exclusive broadcast rights to the match, but they did not exercise those rights – rights which they didn’t pay for. As Barnes says,

“Sky Sport have no interest in broadcasting every game in the league, and to be fair, neither should they. So why not allow clubs to stream their non-televised games? NZF have backed themselves into a corner with this TV deal, it requires very little equipment to stream matches over the internet that otherwise would have had no coverage.”

Team Wellington made alternative arrangements for the game to be shown, because they deemed a National League semi-final to be of interest enough to their supporters who couldn’t make the game and the Waitakere supporters who couldn’t travel to Wellington.

They were right. The game was a barn-burner, a classic, a perfect example of two teams desperate for the win and throwing everything at each other in search of it. It would have made for a fantastic advert for Sky Sports had it been on TV, and was pretty good via a fixed camera on YouTube. Take that, Sky!

That’s unfair though. Sky Sports offer multiple cameras, commentary, graphics and analysis that a fixed camera cannot match – as well as creating the highlights packages and providing a platform for viewing that’s accessible. Their broadcast of the Chatham Cup Final 2016 was a triumph and brought the game to a wider audience (even if they haven’t uploaded the highlights to their youtube). Their coverage of the Stirling Sports Premiership games this season has improved in quality on the previous year, even if they are constrained by the prescriptive broadcast schedule they set the previous September.

But in this case, Sky couldn’t do the job and Team Wellington and Patrick could. That point was made by Sky Sports and Radio Sport commentator Jason Pine, discussing the issue with aggrieved Team Wellington supporters who had shared the highlights only for them to vanish. “It wasn’t Sky’s decision not to show the game, they wanted to” and that the footage belonging to Patrick “…makes no difference, Sky have exclusive rights to broadcast the Stirling Sports Premiership, but can grant exceptions like Sunday” even though they were paid to have those exclusive rights, saying ‘…they will be showing the highlights, hard to argue that you should be allowed to do that for free’.

Hard to argue, but definitely arguable. Perhaps their heavy-handed response, protecting the broadcast rights of something they couldn’t broadcast themselves, seems a bit unfair given the situation. Unless, of course, they’re a bit worried that a precedent has been set, given how streaming has eaten into their market share already.

Patrick put the data usage of streaming the full match, half-time, extra time and penalties at 1.5 gigabyte of data. With mobile broadband packages, it’s more than possible to stream 10 games for $14 per match. Add in the a laptop fewer than 18 months old, a DSLR camera decent enough to capture the game and a HDMI to USB port and streaming games or producing highlights of matches in the Northern, Central or South Island leagues suddenly isn’t that expensive. Certainly cheaper than $30,000 a season.


Doesn’t take much to be a rival to Sky, does it?

Barnes agrees,

“Sky TV haven’t paid a cent for the rights to the Stirling Sports Premiership, in fact NZ Football have to pay them to broadcast it. So NZF have signed the exclusive broadcast rights away for no cost? That’s a very NZF thing to do.”

NZF won’t like that. Then again they’re known for their sensitivity to potential criticism, which has stifled supporter engagement projects in the past. They’re certainly attempting to promote the game and attract investors to be able to take the visibility of football to the next level, their most recent link up involving ISPS Handa and former Prime Minister and noted football supporter John Key.

Barnes again, understandably annoyed,

“Sky TV have taken on a group of volunteer supporters who want to see the game grow in NZ and threatened them with prosecution. Certainly an interesting way for the organisation to create positive PR in a time when they are becoming increasingly irrelevant.“

Perhaps this is a positive thing though, a sign of the growth New Zealand Football desires so much. After all, a conflict between supporters, the football association and Sky Sports is what the big leagues, which NZF aspires to, has. And who knows, maybe this winter we’ll see a few Chatham Cup games streamed on YouTube – knockout football usually provides the competitive edge that ensures something worth watching. Maybe the newly sponsored ISPS Handa/New Zealand Football deal could spring for some equipment.

That is, if they don’t hand the broadcast rights over to Sky.

Categories: NZ Men's National League

Tagged as:

John Palethorpe

10 replies

  1. Guys,
    Just a couple of comments – first what Patrick did was awesome and he deserves to be applauded for bringing such a miracle of a game to our mobile devices (since he had a few sky-go like technical issues for the desktop version) – quality was def watchable and it was refreshing to hear side-line chat rather than commentary.

    From what I have read all the SSP clubs signed off on a memo saying they wouldn’t show any additional footage of their games (live broadcast or delayed) until after the weekly highlights show had been completed – I worked with the media team at Suburbs this season and we took heaps of additional film with go-pro’s etc and we understood and followed this rule.

    I believe when Patrick had the exception to live stream it that there was still the expectation that no footage would be posted online until after the weekly highlight show – I may be wrong on that but there doesn’t seem to be any proof in your post the other way either.

    Also I would bring to your attention this post in the yellow fever forum:

    I’m sure Sky will post their video tomorrow. I think everyone needs to be clear on this…Sky were prepared to film the game, but could not get the safety permits signed off in time for the proposed scaffolding etc that would make filming possible. Let’s be careful of trying to make a villain out of them – logistically it just didn’t work out.

    Putting scaffolding on a council owned ground does require permits and at least in Auckland they are really slow come through and can be held up by all sorts of red tape, you may argue that SKY and TW should have spent the entire off season working on permits so they could have filmed regular games at DF during the season – hopefully that’s something that they can pick up and do for next season.

    With the trucks until last year SKY only had full size massive OSB trucks – however to help them logistically they have invested in a number of smaller trucks which allow them to be able to film at places like Kiwitea Street and Bill Mckinlay Park – these smaller trucks are about the size of a large transit van so while I don’t know DF all that well I’m sure parking for them could have been found – again bow to your knowledge here.

    I think the overall point is maybe there can be a middle ground – teams can live stream non live broadcast games (because like it or not they are of much lesser quality than SKY’s broadcast) with the understanding that no highlights or full game coverage is posted up to the public until after SKY air their weekly highlights.
    It’s in all our best interests that viewership of the highlights is high (on youtube or on SKY) otherwise NZF and SKY may loose interest and streaming will be the only option we are left with.

  2. Really good input Tim. Thanks for sharing the view from within one of the club’s media point of view. Also, congratulations on Suburbs efforts this year in the media space. You guys have been excellent.

    Alo, a big thanks to TeeDubs and Patrick and James for the initiative and effort to bring the stream to the many grateful people who watched it. I think John’s article is bang on in observing that this demonstrates what is possible, and I think it’s a very important question as to whether $30,000 per club is the best spent of limited resources going forward.

    I do take issue with one observation you make, and which Sky seem to be making…

    They did NOT NEED to erect scaffolding to film and broadcast the game. And therefore they did NOT NEED permits to be issued in order to film and broadcast the game.

    Patrick did not erect scaffolds, and did not have to get permits and he filmed and streamed the game.

    Sky CHOSE to make the erection of scaffolds, and thus the gaining of permits, a constraint. They COULD have filmed on the terrace, and accepted the limited view of a small portion of the ground as just the way it is. Patrick did this, and Sky could have too.

    This is important. It shows that it was a CHOICE that sky made to not air the game.

    Also, note that there IS room at Dave Farrington for the smaller OSB vans.

  3. Hi Brandon,
    Have to disagree with you there – SKY believe it or not have broadcast standards – they would have been horrified by the quality of the content out of the Islands for the 1st All Whites vs Fiji game for example.

    To meet these standards to put a good quality broadcast to air they need certain things and scaffold is one of these things. While I accept that they may have been able to film from the terrace you may need to cede that there may have been risks associate with that or more likely SKY were not willing to lower their standards and film the game in a substandard way (which if they had would have also attracted plenty of criticism).

    I want to reiterate that I massively commend Patrick for what he did – I want to drive this home because I don’t want what I say next to be viewed as being negative of his efforts. I don’t understand the constant comparisons between what Patrick was able to achieve and what SKY were not – the quality of the stream is in no way comparable to what could have been broadcast (and again massive respect for Patrick for doing what he did – this isn’t a dig on what he achieved).

    You can capitalise words and try and pass them off as FACTS all you like but these things you highlight are not facts but opinion.

    Whether or not $30k is best spent on SKY next season is a valid discussion – I still think for the time being while the league gains credibility that it needs being on SKY is a professional level that helps the league profile.

  4. Thanks again Tim.

    Just to clarify, the capitalisation was not meant to infer these things were facts. They were for emphasis. Sorry if you thought they meant something other than that.

    Note – Sky actually did film without a scaffold.

    They had a camera there next to Patrick’s and you can see it in the coverage from the stream. The footage from that camera is what is/will be in their highlights.

    I agree completely that not having the scaffold comprises the quality, as you point out. That’s precisely the point I was making. They did not need the scaffold to film at all, they needed it to film to the standard they have decided is required. Saying they couldn’t film without the scaffold and consent is not true. This actually is a fact, because they did it.

    My point was it was a CHOICE (emphasis) to not air it live. It was not that they could not do it because they could not get a consent. While I agree maintaining their production and broadcast standards as a general rule is very desirable, for a one off game, especially for a semi-final, some compromise on production standards should at least be considered, and in my opinion should be accepted in order to get one of the end of season show-piece games to an eager wider audience.

    I completely agree that having the league on Sky, with the high broadcast and production standards is good for the league. It’s definitely not a case of just saying “Can it be done cheaper?” and disregarding other factors like quality, audience reach, ease of availability etc.

  5. thanks for clarifying – yep agree they did film it so it shows it can be done without scaf – and not to quibble but I was referring to broadcast as in live which is as you point out is vastly different?

    John has anyone sought to confirm if Patrick will be able to post his video after SKY have posted there one?

  6. Follow up – Just saw the highlights on Sky, and from their non-scaffold camera the whole pitch was very adequately viewable, including the Southern corner. So not really sure why the scaffold and resource consent are even an issue. Sure, they might help, and give the opportunity for multiple cameras, but I don’t think the compromise on standards without it is significant enough to warrant not showing the game by Sky.

    1. I agree that broadcasting it live is different to recording and editing later, but the issue postulated (at least as I understand it) was re. scaffolding to film from & resource consent, not regarding the different issue of access and a place to park the OSB van.

      My understanding is that the OSB van (the smaller ones) can easily be accommodated at DaveyF. So I don’t see how the scaffold/consent affects the ability to broadcast it live.

  7. Good yarn, John. Fantastic to see a blog leading the way in furthering fans’ knowledge of football media issues. Combined with Tim’s responses this has done much to make it possible for us garden-variety fans to form our own opinions.

    Regardless of the legalities, I’m also full of admiration for Patrick and his can-do spirit. It’s only March but he’s got to be in the running for football personality of the year, right?

  8. Sky’s excuse does come across as a bt of a cop-out. Team Wellington had been in the playoff mix for weeks, and are defending champions. Surely applying for consent could have been done earlier. Team Wellington have played almost every home game at Dave Farrington this season, moving only to suit TV. It can’t have been that much of a surprise they wanted to play the semi at home. You don’t hear these sorts of excuses when it comes to showing club or schoolboy rugby games.

  9. Great article. I think with the increases in technology available to clubs and fans, we should see more of what Patrick did. It was available and it got people watching. I don’t really buy into Sky’s excuse much and I struggle to empathize with their whinging. They are the provider, they are paid to provide content for teams ( just fyi, if i used the “council” as excuse about why i couldn’t deliver something to clients, I’d get bollocked for being incompetent). But they failed. That doesn’t change the fact that teams and fans are still wanting to see matches. If one provider can deliver (Sky, Bein etc), fans will find other ways to watch games. I think sky are just being a bit bolshie after having the market to themselves for so long and because they haven’t had to work hard to retain viewers before aren’t sure what to do in a modern market place.

    Anyway, well done Patrick, I really enjoyed watching it and looking forward to me streams in the future (maybe some pre season games or the like)

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