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Fox Sports launches international AFL streaming product

Just days after Foxtel made headlines for cutting the feeds of subscribers who live streamed the Danny Green versus Anthony Mundine fight to non-paying Facebook viewers – raising questions about the future of live streaming and content piracy – Fox Sports Australia has announced a new international sports’ streaming product, while Foxtel has launched a new sport promo bundle.

The Watch AFL service will be the network’s first direct-to-consumer international streaming product.

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The move marks Fox Sports’ first foray into international distribution and “will also provide a blueprint to explore similar opportunities with rights holders across the company’s full suite of sports”, a statement from the network said.

The platform is a “ground-breaking streaming service”, the statement said, featuring every AFL game in addition to all associated AFL entertainment shows. The content will be available internationally, both live and on demand, “boosting the reach and taking AFL to a whole new audience”.

The network also announced it will continue to push into new markets next year as part of its deal to represent AFL as the sports’ sales agent for international broadcast rights from 2018.

Fox Sports CEO, Patrick Delany, said the Watch AFL Service will extend the sport’s growing reach across multiple platforms.

“The new Watch AFL Service will share our love of AFL with fans around the world.

“Australians travelling or living overseas won’t miss a minute of their team live in action, plus new fans will be able to learn more about the players and the game with all of Fox Sports’ award-winning programs delivering the best insight and analysis.

“The new partnership will help grow the game globally, taking AFL to more markets, across more platforms and reaching more fans than ever before.”

Today also saw the announcement of a new “unprecedented” offer from Foxtel, which features the subscription TV service’s sport and entertainment packs, with a special 200GB broadband bundle for $99 per month on a 12-month plan.

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Foxtel said the offer is a celebration of the second anniversary of “launching broadband services that are purpose-built for entertainment”.

The offer features 12 sports channels, including Fox Sports 1-5, Fox Footy, beIn Sports 1-3, ESPN 1-2 and Eurosport, enabling subscribers to “catch every round live and ad-break free during play across NRL and AFL, as well as every race, practice and qualifying session live of Formula 1 and Supercars”.

In addition, the plan includes access to the NRL-focused Fox League channel, set to launch February 27.

The entertainment side of the bundle includes 45 channels, such as Fox 8, UKTV, Arena, Lifestyle and National Geographic.

The offer, according to Foxtel CEO, Peter Tonagh, is unique in the market and “couldn’t come at a better time”.

“Foxtel’s Sports, Entertainment and Broadband bundle represents incredible value for sports fans and broadband users,” he said.

“Entertainment continues to be a major differentiator among broadband providers and I believe our special sport and broadband bundle is unmatched in terms of breadth and quality of Australian and global sport. It couldn’t come at a better time for sports fans as we get ready to kick off the 2017 winter sports season.”

Both announcements come at what some see as a tipping point for subscription-based television sport viewing.

On Friday night, Foxtel technicians were scrambling to cut off feeds as multiple subscribers, who had paid an additional $59.95 to get access to the boxing match between Mundine and Green, live streamed the event on Facebook.

One Foxtel customer recorded the moment when he was called and told to stop streaming the event to more than 90,000 people, while other streams topped 150,000 viewers.

Brett Hevers, whose stream reached 153,000 viewers before his pay-per-view subscription was cut off by Foxtel, told Mumbrella he was motivated to share the fight because he had a number of friends who could not access Foxtel.

“I had a few mates who were interested and couldn’t watch it,” he said. “I expected to get about 20 views. My intention was never to breach copyright. I did a bit of a Google beforehand and couldn’t see anything. I’m just an Aussie bloke who goes to work.”

He also noted the wider issues surrounding pay-per-view sport, particularly at a time when technology makes streaming so easy.

“I think it was fair they charged for the fight, but $60? I think if they had charged say $10, then I would not have had 150,000 people watching my stream. In this day and age, there are so many ways people can access sport – you need to let them.”

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