1.2 million devices: Telstra breaks weekend sports streaming record
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1.2 million devices: Telstra breaks weekend sports streaming record

Telstra quietly broke an internal record this month for the most mobile devices streaming sport on its apps in a single weekend, with 1.2 million individual devices streaming NRL, AFL and Netball through the sports' apps.

At one point on the weekend of August 10-11, 82,120 viewers concurrently streamed the Hawthorn versus Geelong AFL match. Across all the sports apps, the highest number of concurrent viewers to date is 109,000.

Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson looks on during the quarter-time break during the Round 21 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Geelong Cats.

Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson looks on during the quarter-time break during the Round 21 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Geelong Cats.Credit:David Crosling

Telstra allows customers with a mobile plan or pre-paid service with a $30 or more recharge to stream these three sports data-free through Live Pass apps on the mobile network, as part of a partnership the telco has with the sporting codes.

In the past season, there has been a 58 per cent jump in customers streaming games, with 40 million minutes of live content streamed over its apps in an average weekend. Over the year, Live Pass subscribers have increased 92 per cent to 2.3 million people and for NRL there has been 377 million minutes streamed from Round One to Round 21, with 49 million plays.

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Telstra recently made a move into soccer, obtaining five years of digital rights to Football Federation Australia games from its joint-venture with News Corp, Foxtel and Fox Sports, and has had its other sports rights for about two years.

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Telstra director of product development and innovation Rebecca Haagsma, a former Channel Nine director of streaming app 9Now, told Fairfax Media the viewing habits on mobile were different to the big screen of the home television, with "different experiences".

On mobile, for instance, it might be "having a sneak peek in the supermarket and then opening up the live stream" to drop in and out of the content, she said.

"It’s a lean-in experience, we see users on mobile dipping in at key moments for periods of time, but not generally watching for a full game experience," Ms Haagsma said.

The apps, developed in conjunction with Telstra, include additional information about players and the effects of the outcomes of different games, which often see people browsing the application without even heading to the live-stream.

Providing entertainment and sport content to subscribers has become a major source of competition among telcos as they seek to differentiate their products, justify price bundles and retain customers who may be tempted elsewhere by new players with budget offerings.

Singtel Optus has made several major plays for soccer, including exclusive Australian rights for English Premier League games and the recent FIFA 2018 World Cup, which ended up simulcast on public broadcaster SBS after early issues with its streaming service left fans irate at being unable to watch the games.

Despite these hiccups, Optus chief executive Allen Lew recently told Fairfax Media he intends to stick with his sports plans and keep soccer at the centre of the strategy.

Optus has so far not revealed numbers for how many Australians watched the World Cup but recently said despite the technical issues and sharing of broadcasting with SBS, the Optus Sport app "built health audience levels" and viewership "exceeded" expectations.

Jennifer Duke writes about media and telecommunications.

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