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Television chairmen weigh in on gambling ad restrictions

Tue, Nov 20, 11:30am by Staff Writer

The chairmen of Australia’s largest free-to-air television networks have weighed in on the future of gambling advertising ahead of tighter restrictions that are set to take effect in 2019.

Nine chairman Peter Costello admitted that the network would look to become less ‘dependent’ on the category for advertising revenue, but that the conversation should remain a focus for policymakers.

The federal government announced in March the prohibition of gambling ads during all live sports broadcasts between 5am and 8:30pm from March 30.

This coincided with the second round of the AFL season and fourth round of the NRL season.

Small pay-TV stations exempt from ban

A number of pay-TV channel were exempt from the siren-to-siren ban on gambling advertisements during daytime live sports broadcasts.

The premise of the ban is to reduce the exposure of children to betting ads and applies from five minutes before the start of play to five minutes after the final siren.

The new industry code of practice released by the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association excluded ‘low-audience’ sports TV channels including ESPN, ESPN2 and Eurosport.

ASTRA argued those channels provided “niche coverage of overseas events to a small number of highly devoted fans”, and they would become unviable if advertising revenue dropped off.

Nine Network CEO Hugh Marks agreed with Costello that the network was beginning to reel in the amount of gambling advertising it put to air.

The network has acquired the rights to broadcast the Australian Open tennis event in January after being the nation’s cricket broadcaster for more than 30 years.

“It (gambling advertising changes) was a big part of our decision to switch out of our long-term cricket contract and into tennis. As a result, we have actually decreased our exposure to sports revenue over the year,” Marks told

While ads remain legal, Seven will continue to broadcast them

Seven chairman Kerry Stokes has taken a slightly different approach to the move stating, “the facts are, they are legal, and as long as they are legal, they should be entitled to advertise their products.”

The network has increased its amount of sports coverage for 2019 adding cricket to its existing stable of AFL and horse racing.

“If the government changes the agenda to a point where it is no longer legal, then that becomes a separate issue but as long as it remains a legal commodity, I expect that we will seek to get our share of it,” Stokes said.

TV networks and the nation’s major sporting codes sought to secure permission to be able to broadcast gambling ads every two hours during ‘long-form’ events such as the tennis, Test cricket, the Olympic Games and the Commonwealth Games.

The codes of practice released in March have denied this request, with the Federal Communications Minister Mitch Fifield saying at the time, “the Turnbull government has listened to the community’s concern about the amount of gambling promotions shown during live sporting events and we have acted,” he said.

Despite tougher restrictions on gambling advertising, investment grew by 26 per cent to A$140 million in the year to July.

Betting firms spent 15 per cent more in the calendar year to July than in the same period a year ago.

Sky Television in the UK announced in October that it plans to develop Adsmart technology to enable people to block gambling advertisements from June 2020.

The option to block the ads will be available across more than 140 channels on Sky and Virgin Media TV platforms, including Sky Sports.

Sky will also restrict the number of gambling adverts it broadcasts to one per commercial break as of the start of the 2019-20 English Premier League season.

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