NEP supplied the broadcasting infrastructure for the 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images)

A global broadcasting giant has slipped into NZ. Should Sky be worried?

The biggest global player in broadcast production has bought up a New Zealand company specialising in exactly that. What does that mean for those already here?

The company that does the filming and broadcast production of the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the FIFA World Cup and plenty more besides has quietly made a move to get into New Zealand.

Global broadcasting giant NEP has acquired local outside-broadcast specialists NZ Live, who do the filming and production for clients like the NZ Racing Board (Trackside) and studio production for the likes of Mediaworks and TVNZ.

The purchase was for an undisclosed sum, and could have major implications for Sky TV, who currently dominate sports broadcasting. 

One of Sky TV’s major advantages when it comes to live sport is that they’re experts in producing their own products. The cameras and commentators are all part of their setup that they can offer sports.

Ray Standidge, operations director at NZ Live, once upon a time worked with Sky through the company he set up On Site Broadcasting, which was bought by Sky from Prime. He says he believes Sky bought OSB to ensure they’d have a monopoly on production of live sport. 

“It stopped other broadcasters having the ability to compete with them, unless they spent large amounts of money to build their infrastructure,” he said.

“With NEP coming into the New Zealand market – they’re the largest on earth as far as on-site broadcasting suppliers go – it’s going to open the door to broadcasters and sporting organisations to actually own their own product, and own their own destiny.” 

Standidge doesn’t believe NEP will directly bid for broadcast rights, rather he sees the potential for sports organisations to maintain ownership of their own broadcast rights. But on that point, NEP confirmed that they were keen to have a crack at the biggest prize in NZ sports broadcasting.

President of NEP Australia Soames Treffry noted that rugby rights are coming up again soon, and “we’d be very excited to support rugby and indeed any other sports such as cricket and netball when their rights come on the market for broadcasters and platforms.”

Sky, for their part, aren’t particularly concerned about the new arrival. Outgoing CEO John Fellet said in a statement that Sky produces more than one outside broadcast a day, and that their reputation for “seamless watching experiences” is very strong.

Fellet also says that given NZ Live has been around for a few years, sports organisations have already had options outside of Sky to broadcast their events. 

All of that is a fair point, but it doesn’t address the fact that previously only Sky were in a position to offer end to end broadcasting – not only would they film it, they’d also screen it. But that could be changing.

The most recent high profile example of that was Spark and TVNZ combining to buy the broadcast rights for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. And more generally, streaming opens up the market significantly for anyone who has a platform. Theoretically, even The Spinoff could be a sports broadcaster. But someone would still need to actually film it.

 As well as that, with NZ First still promising to get a bill to make sporting events of ‘national significance’ shown free to air through Parliament, Sky may baulk at going for events they may risk not being able to screen exclusively. 

Ray Standidge will be staying on for two years to run the rebranded operation, along with NZ Live’s other owners Tony Parton and Roger Randle, and GM Oliver Pitkin. He says New Zealand is a good market for NEP to be getting into, with growth potential, and good proximity to big cities on Australia’s east coast. 

NEP comes into the market with more kit and assets that anyone else in the rest of the world. If they chose to, they could make a heavy impact in the New Zealand outside broadcast market and seek to dominate it. And that should make established broadcasters like Sky very nervous.


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