This summer’s ISPS Handa Premiership has seen a major change in the ways that teams can broadcast digital content. In recent seasons, teams had been limited in what and how they could share any match footage due to the television deal with Sky TV.
Essentially, Sky TV had exclusive rights to the broadcasting of all matches, regardless of whether they were actually televised at all. They would broadcast one match a week live on pay TV, and increasingly limited highlights packages from other matches would be available on social media.
The trade-off was that teams and fans were largely prevented from filming or broadcasting match footage. This came to a head a couple of years ago, and more recently saw some teams (particularly those based south of the Cook Strait) getting much less television exposure than some others. With all teams paying a substantial fee to Sky TV for the privilege of having the competition televised, it was hard to argue a case for this being an effective broadcasting model in the current digital age.
As John mentioned back in September, in a bit of a surprise move this summer our national league teams were finally given the freedom to broadcast non-televised Premiership matches, including live streaming of matches as well as being able to share highlights and clips across social media. This was an exciting move – NZ Football set some appropriate guidelines to ensure an appropriate quality control of content, and otherwise allowed teams free reign to get creative with broadcasting their teams in action.
The new trade-off was seemingly less incentive than ever to even pretend to balance which teams were being screening live on television. As I’ve noted previously, the matches being broadcast by Sky this season have been horribly imbalanced – while current strugglers Waitakere will feature seven times on live TV, Canterbury United and Tasman United feature just three times each, and the ever-improving Southern United have only had one single match broadcast all season.
The obvious argument on Sky’s part is the additional costs of broadcasting matches from the South Island, and those costs are clearly sizeable. But that’s still a pathetic excuse given the South Island teams each play six matches in Auckland and Wellington – the lack of effort in sharing the spread of teams represented on TV is quite frankly a kick in the guts.
It’s no surprise then that the three South Island based teams have been amongst those most active in experimenting with live streaming of matches. Canterbury United streamed some of their early season home matches on Facebook – it wasn’t fancy, but it at least enabled football fans to watch some national league action from the South Island online.
Tasman United recently did something a little different – working with Total Football to broadcast a home game on Youtube, with a genuinely professional presentation not far off what Sky TV produces, including multiple cameras and action replays (check it out here). It’s a shame that so far it’s only been a one-off – but look out for future collaborations, because it really was top-notch.
Auckland-based Eastern Suburbs also dabbled in some basic live streaming on Facebook earlier in the season – although much like Canterbury, this seems to have fizzled out more recently despite the team securing a playoff spot.
Perhaps most notably, the competition’s southernmost team has shrugged off the Sky-snub and has been steadily improving with live streams of all home games over the last couple of months. Southern United had earlier experimented with a bit of rudimentary Facebook streaming of National Women’s League matches, but that platform is fairly limited and typically results in a limited quality of broadcasting. But the attempts did show that everyone involved with the franchise and the Football South federation were serious about trying to lead the way with broadcasting digital content.
Enter local football fan and tech guru Anthony Baikie and his wife Susan. What started with a simple filming from a miserably wet Sunnyvale against Eastern Suburbs has morphed into a fairly slick stream in HD quality with full commentary, on-screen graphics, and pre-match & live halftime interviews.
I was invited along by Southern United & Football South CEO Chris Wright to join him in commentating the last three home games. It was something I had never done before, although I had always secretly been curious about giving it a go.
In case it wasn’t blindingly obvious for anyone who’s tuned into a stream, I’ve had absolutely no experience or training (and I don’t imagine Chris has either). But after getting over the initial nerves, it’s become surprisingly comfortable to do and a lot of fun. Most importantly, somehow I’ve gone 270 minutes so far without saying a naughty word.
It might take a bit of effort behind the scenes to get a stream setup, but without a great deal of promotion we had 500 fans tune in live to our most recent home game against Auckland City, and more than 3,000 people have subsequently viewed the match on Youtube. I wouldn’t be surprised if these numbers were competing with Sky’s Premiership viewership ratings.
I’m clearly rather biased in saying so, but I reckon these latest streams have been a pretty damn good standard that most Kiwi football fans would happily watch if more national league matches were broadcast in such a fashion, which could in turn greatly enhance the profile of the competition. We’ve had plenty of feedback along those lines.
We’re going to be streaming again from Sunnyvale this afternoon when Southern United host Wellington Phoenix Reserves – here’s the link to the stream, which will start from about 1:50pm this afternoon.
Some other teams are experimenting with digital content too. Hamilton Wanderers have posted some full matches onto Youtube. Meanwhile, although the league’s benchmark team Auckland City have decided against live streaming of home matches (more on that next week), they put together an amazingly slick highlights package of their home games – check out the video below.
So there’s some exciting things happening in this space, although it would be great to see some more teams giving it a go. At the moment, it kind of feels like down here in Dunedin we’re doing a bit of a favour for fans spread across the rest of the country, while we still never get a chance to watch our team play away games.
With only a few more weeks to go in the 2018/19 summer season, it will be exciting to see what is in store in next season’s Premiership and National Women’s League, and whether any winter league competitions or teams get in on the streaming action.
Next week, I’ll look at some of the reasons and roadblocks preventing some teams from streaming matches.
Categories: NZ Men's National League