What no live sport looks like for broadcasters, streaming services

The shutdown of live sport has left a massive hole for broadcasters to fill. Pic: Getty

Broadcasters and sporting organisations are attempting to dress up replays of classic matches to help fans pass time while isolating amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The global crisis has halted the vast majority of sport in the world, a situation that could continue for several months.

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Some Foxtel subscribers have reported long wait times while calling to cancel their subscription, a request that can only be made over the phone.

Sky Sports in the UK is allowing customers to pause their subscription and still access channels during the hiatus.

Optus Sport is suspending its monthly subscription fee until the end of May, but will continue to provide access to soccer fans.

That option has not been offered by Foxtel and Kayo, which both face a major decline in subscribers as reality hits home for financially-stressed sports fans.

Foxtel has instead opted to give customers access to a wider range of channels and on-demand libraries for free until May 31, also producing AFL and NRL programs analysing the codes' financial woes and other issues.

Fox Sports has resorted to showing replays and classic matches with no live sport to broadcast. Pic: Getty

Fox Footy is airing classic clashes from the past that correspond with what would have been round two of the 2020 AFL season, coupling some games with modern-day panel discussions, analysis and interviews.

Bounce, the irreverent Fox Footy show hosted by Jason Dunstall, is still in production and so is The Late Show with Matty Johns on Fox League.

Channel Seven is also winding the clock back, airing memorable AFL matches on 7mate in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia on Friday night, while the league itself is presenting 'Fixture Throwback' on its app.

Seven's The Front Bar attracted 311,000 viewers on Wednesday night and at this stage will remain in production.

Kayo hopes some 15,000 hours of on-demand content, including more than 100 episodes of the critically-acclaimed ESPN 30 for 30 series, will capture subscribers' interest throughout the health crisis.

"Kayo is a month-to-month subscription service. Customers can pause their subscription at any time and come back when they want," a Kayo spokesperson said.

Kayo reportedly shed 32,000 customers between November and February, underlining the challenge ahead for the Foxtel-backed sports streaming service launched in 2018.

The NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL have made their in-house streaming services free for coming months, allowing supporters to pass time by watching replays from recent years.

Cricket.com.au broadcast a trans-Tasman ODI from 1997 on its Facebook page, website and YouTube channel on Monday, inviting fans to engage and treat it like a 'live' game on Twitter.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has flagged its intent to do something similar with World Cup games, while FIFA has launched its #WorldCupAtHome campaign and vowed to provide full replays of more than 30 unforgettable World Cup games.

NRL clubs face prospect of sponsors pulling the pin

A leading sports lawyer has warned the NRL and their clubs face the prospect of sponsors walking away in droves during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sponsorship represents the second biggest form of revenue for each of the 16 clubs following NRL grants, and is worth millions in apparel, player partnerships and hospitality streams.

A working group has been set up by the NRL and clubs to combat the issue.

But Brisbane-based sports lawyer Tim Fuller from Gadens warned sponsors would be within their rights to stop paying clubs, particularly if the 2020 competition does not resume.

"I think we're going to see terminations in the days ahead, weeks to come," Fuller warned.

"They probably would be prepared to basically comply with their obligations under the contract as long as there's light at the end of the tunnel.

"Otherwise they're going to walk away in droves.

"The NRL have got to walk their way through with all these sponsors.

"The next few days will be fascinating because there is potential for sponsors to leave en masse, and that'll leave a huge hole in club and game funds."

Fuller said most sponsorship contracts would centre around the 24 games for each club, or the full 25 rounds plus finals.

It's understood the NRL's major sponsor Telstra is in discussions with a number of sporting codes in relation to the impacts of the virus on the regular season and the agreements they have in place.

Third-party player deals could also fall over if the game's stars are unable to fulfil their obligations.

Staff at clubs have spent this week trying to find ways to keep sponsors involved and offer them some kind of exposure during the suspension.

The Wests Tigers have started streaming video games in response to the NRL's shutdown. Pic: Getty

The Wests Tigers announced on Thursday they would stream video games against their respective opponents each week, with players wearing club merchandise.

Other clubs were also looking at social media activations and streamed interviews that would still show players in team kit with sponsors displayed.

Fuller said one option for the league and its clubs was to offer sweeteners to companies to stay on.

"There could be some sort of negotiation between the sponsor and the game where there might be an extension of the sponsorship agreement," Fuller said.

"Say for example Telstra's contract was due to terminate or expire this year, they might get an extension on that and be contracted for the next 18 months."

Other concerns for clubs could be if the corporate partners fell into financial trouble, with most companies set to feel the pinch of the virus and economic slowdown.