Channel Ten has started running advertisements for a campaign, “Save My Sport“. With Ten reporter Ryan Phelan staring earnestly down the camera barrel, the ad is a reaction to Australia’s three main football codes pushing to dismantle media laws that ensure popular live sport goes to free-to-air stations, ahead of pay TV.

Commercial TV network executives being the caring, sensitive souls that they are, Ten is desperately concerned that you might not be able to watch your favourite sport on free broadcast TV if such changes were made. I have no idea if it’s also occurred to them that the proposal would mean they might have to pay more for sporting TV rights, and would no longer get away with showing that sport at 2am, instead of live. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt but, regardless, the stage is set for Foxtel and the commercial stations to continue duking it out over who can show live sport.

I find this all pretty amusing because last night – while Fox Sport 1 ran a live motorbike race, Fox Sport 3 beamed in the Champions Trophy cricket live, Ten screened Australian Idol, Nine ran CSI (yawn) and Seven ran a movie, Starsky & Hutch – I was sitting in my lounge room, watching live surfing from Spain.

On wireless broadband, via my laptop, I checked out the patchy left-hand surf at Mundaka, as the ASP world tour event moved into the second round (Kelly Slater safely won through to the third round, by the way).

With expert and intelligent commentary, comprehensive action replays, views of the nearby Spanish countryside, and live updating scores for each surfer in a small box next to the screen, I watched round two heats for a couple of hours.

It strikes me that this is the scene that should be making all TV executives quake quietly in their boots, not Andrew Demetriou and his mates wanting to be able to hawk TV rights to a few more potential bidders.

I’m 41 years old and will still tune into footy and cricket, wherever it’s screened. But where do you reckon the kids are watching their sport? Surfing has bypassed television altogether for its live audience. Sure, you can watch edited highlights of events later, on Foxtel, but I’ll bet it doesn’t even occur to the surf-loving youth of the world to check their local TV guides for “live surfing”, ahead of the usual programming.

Surfing has clearly made the judgement that the internet, and broadband, is now solid enough to cut out the middleman – aka network programmers. It’s going to take a lot more than a campaign website to get the youth of the world back from here.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW