Seven people have just been convicted and fined for streaming the previous Joseph Parker boxing match via their Facebook accounts. Not a hand slap fine either, it was $2800.00 each. That news becomes public at exactly the same time as a Bill before Government was drawn from New Zealand First MP Clayton Mitchell. The Bill would require "games of national significance" to be broadcast live free-to-air. I have a problem with this.
The bill apparently covers the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games, all Rugby World Cup matches involving New Zealand, all domestic rugby test matches, the Super Rugby final, all domestic netball test matches, all Netball World Cup matches, and major cricket, rugby league, football, tennis and basketball matches. But hang on, who said just those were significant?
The Bill may not end up restricting to just those, but my guess it is for anything classed as a "National Team". That's Motorsport out.
However is a boxing match for a world title of national significance? I think yes. But should it be free? I think no.
It's a messy situation. The butt-hurt that Supercars has recieved since moving to Fox and its pay platform for ad-free live viewing has been nothing short of fanatical. But I do believe they have the right format. It's professional entertainment and the professional participants should be paid, and we as spectators should pay to see it. If it was purely amateur and they managed to secure financing to pay for TV coverage then free-to-air has a different argument. But pro entities should not.
If you want to eat vegetables for free, grow your own. If you want someone elses then you pay. If you want to see a circus for free, create your own, otherwise pay to watch. If you want to watch a concert for free, make your own band, otherwise pay to see. Same goes for professional sport.
It is not a right to have a major sporting event given to us to watch for nothing. You have to pay to get into the stadium so why should you get to see it for nothing on the television? Radio provide coverage of events as a way to bring notation to its station and of course from that they can sell ads - plus it is very cheap comparatively to create a radio broadcast versus a televised one.
If the public pays for the upkeep of the sport or an individual team then there is a cross-argument for providing free viewing of their performances, but that must come down to a percentage. If for example the public puts in 5% of the All Blacks income then it's not really a decent argument. If it was more than half the income then there is something worth debating.
But as we are all aware the bulk of the funding for major sports comes from sponsor/partnership endorsements payments, plus the television actually pays to show it. Therefore it becomes simple math. If the broadcaster pays to film it and show it then they deserve the right to charge people to watch it. If not then you should have to live with a multitude of breaks for advertising so the broadcaster can recoup its costs.
To be fair it currently is done this way for many sports. Prime TV for example plays delayed coverage of various things with advertising injected into it. Fair enough.
To throw a spanner in the topic, the landscape of broadcasting is changing very quickly. Online streaming is becoming the future - and rightfully so. You can watch many sports for free via official channels, and of course there are plenty of unofficial pirated ways as well, but the fact is that soon the networks will no longer be bartering for exclusive coverage.
The Bathurst 12 hour is free to watch online, WRC is a paid subscription, but lots of Endurance racing from around the world is streaming for free. The big players have not gone down that path yet - but they will. A per-round fee to watch via your browser? Works for me. Bathurst 1000 would get swamped, so too would the Daytona 500 and Indy 500 - who actually do it like that in a form anyway. But it will get bigger and easier around the globe to sign up.
So what about the Supercars? Do the pundits deserve to have free to air coverage? No. And no again. Just because you buy the merchandise it does not mean you own the sport and can command the right of free viewing. You are not that special. The sport has an income from various sources, again it doesn't give you the right to watch for free because you've been a fan for 25 years.
Boxing? Rugby? Olympics? Commonwealth? Again there are arguments for and against, but generally the answer is the same. User pays. Fair call that.