AFL to Fight Court Ruling Suspending Major Broadcast Deal with Telstra

February 1, 2012

The Australian Football League (AFL) are vowing to battle a court ruling which has halted a $153 million broadcast rights deal with telecommunications giant Telstra 

In a landmark ruling, Justice Steven Rares ruled that Optus’ ‘TV Now’ service – which allows mobile users to record and watch a program on as little as a two minute delay – would be granted court protection from copyright claims by the AFL, Telstra and National Rugby League.

He said in a judgement that Optus had not infringed copyright in the ways that the AFL, NRL and Telstra, which holds an exclusive licence to use NRL and AFL match broadcasts, had alleged.

And that in turn will place the $153 million broadcast deal between Telstra and the AFL in serious jeopardy, with the phone giant already having threatened to rip up the agreement if the judgement went against them.

The deal had given Telstra the exclusive right to show AFL matches live on handheld devices from 2012 to 2016, while a similar agreement was also being brokered as part of the broadcasting rights negotiations with the NRL.

Gillon McLachlan of the AFL said the arguments were still in the “pre-season” stage.

“We maintain Optus action is a breach of copyright … it is highly likely we will appeal,” McLachlan said.

There is no way the appeal would be heard before the AFL season starts on March 24 and the NRL season starts on March 1 – opening the way for the ‘TV Now’ service to continue this season.

NRL boss David Gallop joined the AFL in his disapproval of the ruling.

“The decision is very likely to be appealed,” Gallop said.

“It is a major concern as it clearly has the capacity to devalue the ability of the sports to sell exclusive rights.”

The ‘TV Now’ system allows users to record a broadcast, upload it to an external server – or cloud storage – and then watch it back almost immediately, via a phone or PC.