Does the New Sports Streaming Service Deliver a Knockout Blow to FTA?
The old cliché may be that Australia is a “sporting nation” and that watching sport of all kinds is almost mandatory for every Aussie. That’s not actually the case of course, but make no mistake, we’re a nation of obsessed sports fans. A study commissioned by the NBN back in 2017 estimated that Australians consumed 60 million hours of sport per week at home across all platforms and devices. That’s 3.1 billion hours per year. If you’ve ever wondered why the TV rights to sporting events go for so much money, that’s one good reason right there.
Over many years, free-to-air TV has been the bastion of televised sport, always ready to beam the latest major events into our homes for free. Test cricket and one-day internationals, the week’s top AFL and NRL games, Wimbledon, the Olympics, and dozens more. Sport on free-to-air TV became such a part of Australian culture that there’s specific legislation designed to protect it – the so-called “anti-siphoning list” of sporting events that must be shown on free-to-air TV.
But the television landscape is changing rapidly, as the expense of covering sporting events has started to become a burden on increasingly cash-strapped networks looking for cheaper programming to attract viewers. Foxtel has more than ably stepped in to save the day with their peerless global sports coverage across 15 channels, with deals in place for everything from the AFL to Formula One which ensures the only way to get the complete package is by paying your money and getting Foxtel installed.
Or at least, that was the only way. Enter Kayo Sports.
More Than Just Okay
Streaming sports is something that’s been on the cards for years – it’s been tried on a very small scale here in Australia (such as with the AFL and NRL apps, or with Foxtel Now’s rebroadcasts of the satellite Foxtel channels) but sports fans have been clamouring for an alternative to linear broadcast TV for their sporting fix for some time.
This is the age of Netflix, after all, and Kayo Sport has arrived looking very much like a sporty Netflix, complete with slick graphics, high definition video streams and an all-inclusive monthly price. We’ve already spent a good deal of time with Kayo and its excellent apps, and it’s hard to emphasise enough how much of a revolution it feels like.
For starters, the idea of having to be in front of the TV at an appointed time to watch the game, that’s gone. Kayo lets you show up half an hour late, and start playback of the game as though it was live – while it’s still in progress.
Watching a broadcast on Kayo, you can pause whenever you like. You can pull up live stats, and if you’re curious what the score is with another match you can pop it into a picture-in-picture window effortlessly and see both at the same time. If you’re watching the Australia versus India test cricket and happen to be a native Hindi speaker, you can stream it with Hindi commentary instead. Formula One fans can stream alternate channels including live car data and special views, or throw them all into a multi-view window. You can go back and watch the game again later and zip direct to the highlights. You can tell Kayo what your favourite sports and teams are, and it’ll keep you updated with the latest games that matter to you.
In so many ways, Kayo feels like a little revolution in the way we will consume sports in the future, and so far, sports fans appear to be loving it.
But what about the all-important thing – the content? What can free-to-air offer, if anything, that Kayo cannot? Let’s take a look.
The Content: Free-To-Air
There’s no getting around it – the amount of sport on free-to-air TV has been slowly but inexorably shrinking over the past few years. As we mentioned above, there are very valid cost reasons for that, as various sporting codes charge more and more for the rights to broadcast their games and events, to the point where free-to-air networks, struggling to make money in a world where suddenly there’s a vast array of new options, can’t afford to buy the rights alone.
As a result we see some of the biggest sports on free-to-air TV sharing a licensing deal with Fox Sports, which has become the powerhouse of televised sports in recent years. So a fan of Formula One, for example, can catch the Championship on Channel Ten – but only the Australian Grand Prix is available live. Instead, the remaining are broadcast as replays, well after the race has been run and won.
AFL and NRL, too, are shared between Fox Sports and free-to-air – but it’s here that the anti-siphoning laws deliver a win to free TV. The Grand Finals of both codes cannot be taken off free-to-air TV, and so if you want to watch those games as they happen, the only place you’ll find them is on your trusty old free TV network, with Fox Sports having to settle for a replay after it’s all over.
But it’s not all good news for free-to-air. There used to be an array of niche sports to watch – many on the ABC, like lawn bowls – but they’re becoming more and more rare.
And if you’re a fan of the round football that some call soccer, you’re going to find only a handful of A-League games on free-to-air. It really is the story across almost all sports.
Free-to-air excels, though, at coverage of major international events like the Olympic Games, and horse racing fans in some states actually get a dedicated racing channel – racing.com – that’s better produced than the pay TV alternative.
The Content – Kayo
We’ve made mention above of the amount of sports where rights have slowly been snapped up by Fox Sports for a reason; Kayo Sports is, as you’re probably aware, a sister company to Fox Sports and as a result they have full access to their coverage.
The other advantage, of course, is that Kayo is all sports, all the time, on demand. You can watch live, watch delayed, watch replays, or even watch specially edited “mini” versions of games if you’re just after the highlights. And of course, when it comes to those key sports where free-to-air only has a small selection of games, Kayo has (or will have, when the seasons start) access to all of it. AFL, NRL, Formula One, A-League, NBA, NBL, surfing, even international darts and pool.
Kayo doesn’t have everything that you’d find on Foxtel, though – one omission, at least for now, is content from the Eurosport network. But free-to-air can’t help with that either – you’re going to need to pursue other options if you want the EU-centric specialised coverage from that channel. Balancing it out, ESPN’s sports here on Kayo are in full 1080p high definition – better quality than you get on Foxtel.
Oh, and then there’s that other major, huge advantage over free-to-air TV – there are no ads during play. None. Zero. And anyone who’s watched the cricket and started to have nightmares where a KFC ad just plays endlessly on repeat will know that the fewer ads, the better. Free-to-air, meanwhile, can’t help themselves, rushing to an ad break after every single goal in an AFL game, for example.
Sports Streaming Plans
There’s no getting around this one. Free-to-air is, well, free. As long as you’ve got a TV and an antenna you can watch all day and all night and never be asked for a cent. The price you pay is, of course, in being made to watch all those ads, but even so, it’s hard to argue with free.
Except when the new, online option in Kayo Sports costs a mere $25 per month – less than six bucks a week. For that flat price you get access to everything, whenever and wherever you are, with two people able to use your account at the same time, so you can settle family arguments about watching the footy or the cricket (a plan that allows 3 streams is available too, for $35).
So yes, Kayo does cost more than free – but so little per week for what you get, it’s hard to complain about it – especially when you start to realise how much content there is there to watch (and we didn’t even mention all the quality sports documentaries you get access to as well!).
How to Watch
Free-to-air TV has been expanding its viewing options in recent years, and alongside the trusty television itself, you can now stream most free-to-air channels live via both their own apps and the all-encompassing Freeview FV app. But you’d have to catch the game live – they don’t offer catch-up replays for sport.
Kayo, meanwhile, is available on iOS and Android phones and tablets (with full Chromecast support for Chromecast 3 and Ultra), Apple TV, Android TV, Telstra TV and of course desktop and laptop computers via a web browser. More device support is on the way, but already, there’s not many situations where you’d find yourself unable to watch something on Kayo, no matter where you are.
Even Kayo Does Free
If you’re still on the fence about Kayo Sports, there’s an easy way to see if it’s as good as we say it is – grab the app, sign up and enjoy two weeks of the full service absolutely free of charge. The 14-day free trial gives you plenty of time to explore Kayo’s unique features and deep sports coverage, and there’s no charge at all if you decide it’s not for you.
Earlier this month when we compared Foxtel Now and Kayo, we came to the conclusion that it wasn’t a fair fight, as Kayo won on both price and features. In the battle between Kayo and free-to-air sports, the stakes are different – Kayo costs money, free-to-air doesn’t. But regardless, the clear winner is again Kayo Sports – priced low enough to be a Netflix-like no-brainer for any sports fan, and boasting so much sports coverage that free-to-air TV couldn’t possibly find the hours to keep up – even if they could afford to.