The news of a relatively unknown competitor scooping up the rights to broadcast the English Premier League last week, took many New Zealanders by surprise. Amidst a rush of media speculation, public commentary and football fan confusion – Premier League Pass revealed itself as the owner of the football license for the next three seasons.
Tim Martin is the co-founder of Coliseum Sports Media Management, which owns Premier League Pass. He admits last week's revelation wasn't how he would've liked to launch the streaming sports service, but now that the cat is out of the bag he's ready to make internet TV in New Zealand – sports in particular – a premium experience.
We speak to Martin about the business of sports in New Zealand, the technology behind the new sports broadcasting platform and what other sports codes that Coliseum might tackle.
What were you doing before starting Coliseum [in 2009]?
I'm an ad guy. I worked for Leagas Delaney on the Adidas global account. It put me into contact with a lot of sport and the business of sports, especially with football.
Coliseum was primarily a sports marketing and promotional company. We've worked for New Zealand Cricket ... done Facebook marketing for NZRU and built apps for others.
It was a great way to make a living and pay the mortgage, but we really saw something exciting happening in digital broadcasting. We knew technology would fundamentally change the relationships fans have with sports and this lead us to the idea of online broadcasting.
We officially shifted focus to the idea of broadcasting in June 2012.
You're working with Cooper Capital Partners in the US to fund all this. What is investment split?
It's 50/50 ownership and investment in the company.
With a population of only around 4.5 million, are there enough football fans in New Zealand to make Premier League Pass profitable?
Football is much bigger in New Zealand than anyone gives it credit for ... There's a small but passionately engaged audience of fans here.
When you were building the business case, what were the numbers you put in the 'potential audience' box? How many subscribers do you need to keep Premier League Pass running?
We looked at how many people are playing the game and are engaged at a club level. There are around 80,000 people registered with New Zealand Football ...
We're not revealing the subscriber information at the moment.
How much was invested to secure the Premier League broadcast license?
We've invested a huge amount, but again I can't get into that for commercial reasons.
Premier League Pass will be available on desktop, iOS and Android. How big is the technology team working on Premier League Pass?
We have a partnership with NeuLion in New York which develops the platform and has around 20 full time staff with their attention just on Premier League Pass ... Our partnership with NeuLion also comes with 24/7 support for customers out of New York and it's also well staffed.
NeuLion does the streaming for the NFL, NHL, NBA, UFC ...Our platform is a lot like NFL Game Pass. They do more of this kind of work than any other company in the world. In fact, what really put me onto this path is trying to find a way to watch NFL online. I love NFL and when I discovered NFL Game Pass and thought it was the coolest thing on the internet.
When I say it's like Game Pass I mean exactly that. It's the Game Pass platform with the NFL skin peeled off and replaced with the Premier League. If you've used Game Pass you'll know exactly what you'll be getting with Premier League Pass.
One of the concerns StopPress readers have had following the story last week is the amount of data that a Premier League Pass subscription might eat through. Do you think current data plans from telcos will make this a hard sell?
That's been a big concern for a lot of football fans out there. From our tests we estimate that a two hour live broadcast – which is generally how long a game goes for – at high quality 1600 Kbps uses about 1.1 GB of data. If you're a big EPL fan you're probably watching about 10 games per month, so that's about 20 hours of streaming. You can do the maths from there.
We don't think this is an unreasonable for the quality of the content and the amount of coverage.
Are you talking with telcos to sweeten the deal for consumers, perhaps with unmetered Premier League Pass content?
We would love to see more companies zero rate data, but the reality of the situation is charging for data is their business.
We are talking to a telco about something that will come out in the next couple of weeks.
So the announcement that Slingshot made last week, is that an official partnership?
No. Slingshot is using its own initiative on that one and good for them.
Will we see any marketing or advertising for Premier League Pass ahead of the start of the next EPL season? Do you have an agency on board or are you looking for one?
There will be a little marketing campaign but it will be almost entirely digital.
We can do all that ourselves – we have a strong advertising and marketing background in the team.