After around 18 months on air, Sommet Sports has been forced to pull the plug on its goal to bring free sports to Kiwis after struggling to find advertising revenue.
The free-to-air sports channels screened both live and pre-recorded sports like AFL, motorsport, tennis and football on Freeview channel 14 and Sky channel 69. And in a release it said that "funding initially understood to be available for the channel upon launch had largely never materialised and Sommet has been forced to attempt to deliver a full nationwide broadcast channel on one third of the finance".
"I am totally gutted at not being able to sustain something that we have long held a fervent desire to deliver to New Zealanders," says Andrew Reeves, director of Sommet Sports. "Sommet was born from a dream to deliver free sports to all Kiwis. Sadly this dream is not to be. We have been blown away by the amazing support and consistently growing viewership that we gained in such a short time. We can only thank our loyal fans who have stayed with us until the end. Being the ‘new kids on the block, we also struggled to gain a strong foothold with most advertising agencies. This coupled with an acute funding shortage has left us with the sad reality of having to make the difficult call."
He took the opportunity to thank OMD, Spark, McDonald's, KFC and Fiat Chrysler group "for their support and belief in our vision".
While there's plenty of action around the fringes in terms of sport broadcasting, Sky has maintained its strong hold on rights in this country, recently re-signing multi-year deals for rugby and cricket.
According to Sky's full-year report, 71 percent of its 865,055 subscribers were signed up for the package that includes Sky Sports. So it's hugely important for the business, which clocked in with record numbers recently. And, unlike Australia, there are no anti-siphoning laws that guarantee a certain amount of sport needs to be shown on free-to-air channels.
Sky says it's always had competition, but it's never had as much as it does now. Premier League Pass has won the EPL football rights (with TVNZ as the free-to-air partner), some golf rights and it recently started showing French rugby. It also put in a bid for F1 and, in keeping with previous deals, it planned to work with a free-to-air partner. Some sports are broadcasting online or looking at the viability of selling direct to the consumer (as HBO announced it would do). But as Sky chief executive John Fellet said in a story in NZ Marketing: “We’ve always had competition, but we’ve always won the battles. It’s a long-haul business. And the first ten years weren’t easy … The easiest part is buying the content. The tricky part is figuring out how to make enough money to pay for it."
And that quote seems pertinent in the case of Sommet Sports.