Coliseum adds LGPA, featuring Lydia Ko, to its swag of sports; seeks to get TVNZ or MediaWorks onboard

Online broadcaster continues to expand its line-up. CEO updates on golf talks with free-to-air broadcasters. 

UPDATE / Dec 5: Coliseum Sports Media has expanded its new golf service, first announced in October.

The service, which starts in January, will now include not just PGA Tour events including The Players Championship and the Presidents Cup. CSM says it's also secured exclusive rights to the LPGA Tour featuring Lydia Ko; European Tour; Ryder Cup; US PGA Championship; Asian Tour and the EurAsia Cup all of which will be delivered through a partner platform called WORLDGOLFPASS.  

The price remains the previously announced $19.90 a month or $199 a year.

CSM also said today it's partnering with Noel Leeming stores for golf fans who want advice on how to tap this broadband-delivered service, or steam the video to a regular television.

Last weekend, CSM went live with its new French rugby service. Trying it out, NBR had a mixed reaction.

CEO Tim Martin says CSM has proposals in front of prospective partners TVNZ and MediaWorks to show some golf free-to-air.

It could be either a paid arrangement on a contra for publicity. "I don’t know free-to-air TV. I don’t understand the model. We have to be entirely lead by those free-to-air guys. But I’m confident golf will be back on free-to-air TV for the first time in a generation," he tlles NBR.

Theres no deadline for a deal. Martin says the golf content deals are for five years.

CSM will continue to add more sports, and continue to expand around Asia-Pacific (more of which below), he says.

With its NZ business heading into the black this year, and the backing of 50% shareholder Peter Cooper (estimated NBR Rich List value: $720 million), it's certainly better positioned than most online plays.

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Coliseum wins PGA rights from Sky, lines up free-to-air broadcast partner

Oct 2: Coliseum Sports Media boss Tim Martin confirms his company has won rights to the PGA Tour. It's now taking pre-registrations at pgatourlive.co.nz.

When Sky TV said on September 8 it had lost the US golf series, NBR immediately hit up Mr Martin for comment, but at that point he was still playing his cards close to his chest.

This morning, talking to NBR from London, he says Coliseum will launch its PGA product in January 2015.

Last year, Coliseum won rights to English Premier soccer from Sky, then launched PremierLeaguePass ($19.90 a month or $199 a year), whose content can be viewed on a smart TV, iPad, computer or Samsung Android smart devices (with various options to stream the video to a regular TV with quality options up to full high definition if your broadband connection is up to it).

Coliseum's PGA Tour product will have similar online viewing options (pricing hasn't been set, though the PGA has indicated it will be north of $20 a month).

But where Coliseum uses is own technology for PremierLeaguePass (licensed from NeuLion, the New York outfit behind NFL Pass and NHL Pass), the NZ company is essentially a rights holder only for the PGA; subscribers will be redirected to the PGA's website to view content. 

Why the redirect?

"Because that’s better for the fan," Mr Martin says.

"To connect directly with the PGA and all that that entails – they have so much more available for golf fans that golf fans don’t get because broadcasters control that relationship. And we don’t need – or want – to get in the way of that. In my opinion, this is the way sport is going to go in the future – directly to customers. It makes so much sense for sports to own that customer relationship. It delivers more money and gives the sport much greater control. And its better for the fan. They can connect directly with the sport they love, not the broadcaster and in return, the sport can give them more of what they want at a cheaper price."

Sports fans may argue with the cheaper bit. A sports nut will probably be keeping their Sky subscription, but could also be shelling out $199 a year for PremierLeaguePass.com, and soon a similar amount for Coliseum's PGA service. 

Partnership with free-to-air broadcaster
Does the redirect to the PGA's website preclude a partnership with a free-to-air broadcaster (with Premier League soccer, Coliseum roped in TVNZ, which runs a highlights show, and uses badged PremierLeaguePass for clips during OneNews' sports section).

No. Mr Martin says there will "absolutely" be a free-to-air component.

"We want to see Live golf back on free-to-air. But haven’t sorted that out yet. That’s next to do. There’s a generation of New Zealanders who have never seen Tiger Woods play a round of golf live. We want that to change."

How much did Coliseum pay?
"I can't say, as secrecy appears to be the trick in negotiations around future rights deals. But we’re really comfortable with the rights fee. It’ll work for us, we’ll be profitable.  Again, like the Premier League, we were surprised at the low cost of entry, and that they were actually available. And its going to be great value for the fan. Way, way cheaper than what they currently pay," Mr Martin says.

More to come
It's been rumoured Coliseum is also seeking European Tour and LPGA Tour rights.

Mr Martin confirms that is indeed the case.

He's on the hunt for other sports, too.

On August 21, he told NBR that Coliseum had put in a $6 million bid for Formula One rights covering four years. However, his company was outbid by the incumbent Sky, which Mr Martin says has become much more aggressive in its efforts hold onto rights.

He also confirmed Coliseum went head-to-head with Sky TV over 2015 World Cup rights, but dropped out after Sky doubled its original bid (World Cup talks continue. A Sky TV spokeswoman told NBR her company expects to make an announcement shortly).

Coliseum won't make another rugby rights bid, Mr Martin says. But it is eyeing other sports that would suit its model.

Sky won't sit on its hands, and it remains the heavyweight in spending on broadcast and online rights. Its recently-released annual report reveals the company spent $656 million in the year to June 2014, $280 million of which went to programming.

None of the various "over-the-top" new entrants are about to knock over Sky.

For shareholders, the bigger concern is a death by 1000 cuts — PremierLeaguePass steals a couple of sports here, QuickFlix and Lightbox peel away some premium TV series there; and tech savvy viewers (and, increasingly, middle New Zealanders set up by tech savvy friends) tap into offshore services for content.

Each foray by the over-the-top players drives up Sky's costs. For now, it's barely discernable against the main factor in Sky's programming expenditure, the rise or fall of the NZ dollar. But as over-the-top services get more user-friendly, it's an area to keep a sharp eye on.

Not all of the new entrants will be stayers.

But in Coliseum's case, it doesn't seem like Sky will win a war of attrition, at least any time soon.

Mr Martin says PremierLeaguePass should make a profit on its NZ operation this year — though he also says that, regardless, its largest investor, Britomart developer Peter Cooper is in it for the long haul (and if you're wondering where Mr Martin found $6 million to bid for F1, Mr Cooper's wealth increased from $650 million to $720 million in this year's NBR Rich List).

Asia-Pacific push
But the Coliseum boss also emphasises his gameplan is not to take on Sky TV. Rather, he's looking for sports that suit his company's model and, more, looking to expand around Asia Pacific.

When NBR last caught up with Mr Martin in August, PremierLeaguePass had just launched in Taiwan, and was about to hit the go button in the Philippines. 

One's going better than the other. 

"Taiwan is amazing. We're still putting on over 1000 subscribers a week and they seem to really like the service," Mr Martin says (as in NZ, he's leery of giving an exact subscriber figure. The closest he's come is telling NBR the number of NZ PremierLeaguePass subscribers is "way more" than its 7000 Twitter followers).

"Haven’t switched on Philippines yet as that’s all gotten a bit complicated, but we’re almost there. And turns out there’s another very big market on the horizon that’s emerging as a possibility. So its exciting."

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

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