Football’s do-or-die TV rights deal
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Foxtel was a big player in this new plus billion dollar deal and the AFL wouldn’t have been able to do it without a few very generous companies.
While the NRL and Socceroos take the biggest ratings for Foxtel regularly, the AFL has somehow convinced business leaders in Telstra, Foxtel and Channel Seven that they deserve the most money for TV rights when Australian Rules is known to be a spectator sport and not as popular over broadcast.
The domestic media will say that NRL and football will get their fair share of the TV rights pie when their deals come up for negotiation, but there is only so much money Foxtel and Channel Seven can give out, isn’t there?
Foxtel believe their subscription rates in places like Melbourne will go up when there is a general trend of ditching pay TV for new free-to-air digital television.
The prices of Foxtel are rising due to this new AFL deal and recently the NRL have stated they will ditch Foxtel for free-to-air providers if the company can’t give NRL what it deserves, which is much more than AFL.
This could prove catastrophic for Foxtel if the majority of the country’s population in New South Wales and Queensland ditch their pay TV subscriptions and free-to-air reap the benefits.
Football on the other hand hasn’t been arguing or threatening Foxtel but have been submissive to premature calls for the new A-League television rights to be smaller than the original deal. While the FFA are worrying about this they aren’t focusing on Australian footballs golden egg that is Socceroos games.
Socceroos have produced the highest rating Foxtel program ever and regularly feature in the top 10 or 50 rating programs. It is undeniable that the Socceroos are the most valuable sporting broadcast product in Australia and they deserve one of the biggest deals in comparison to all other sports.
While Foxtel might not be prepared to cough up what is deserved for international football, there is definitely potential for the FFA to ditch pay TV in search of new free-to-air money.
Channel Nine would be likely destination and who knows if a new deal doesn’t just include World Cup qualifiers but all friendlies and qualifying matches? This would kill Foxtel and prove that the FFA have just a bit of power over the company that is denying football its deserved wealth.
When considering the A-League, companies like Foxtel cannot deny that it has grown in popularity and quality and while it doesn’t get particularly big viewership, there is no doubting its potential.
If A-League games moved to free-to-air, shared over a few channels it could seriously increase the competitions popularity and then would prove a further rights deal big money.
Why should football suffer the same fate of Super Rugby, disappearing from the majority population and only left for the most attached rugby fans willing to pay for it.
The FFA need to be smart over a new deal and I would strongly recommend separating Socceroos negotiations to the A-League and trying to secure a high earning long term deal for Socceroos. The A-League deal should be more short term, exposing the free-to-air market and then after a couple of years negotiating something new with a significantly appreciated new deal for an enlightened market.
There is no doubting the A-League’s potential and it already on-sells highlights packages to some 100 countries so it must be somewhat financially beneficial.
The FFA would be wrong to package Socceroos with A-League because Socceroos are just so valuable and can get their own share of revenue which would be undermined if packaged with another asset.
Some say the A-League cannot stand on its own feet and produce a good enough deal but it has already proved that wrong with a long stretch on Foxtel. Maybe when the A-League was starting it was too immature to be sold stand-alone but look at how much it has grown.
Foxtel have become too comfortable with the fact that they will keep A-League rights and that no other broadcaster wants them.
Well I can name two free-to-air channels, (who haven’t wasted their money on AFL rights) that could produce a very high quality joint broadcast product and who’s to say a deal with pay TV other than Foxtel cannot be made? Why not get SBS and Channel Ten involved with Setanta Sports or ESPN?
New free-to-air broadcasting would benefit everyone involved due to huge increases in A-League interest. It’s like we have a nation of A-League fans who don’t know it yet. The A-League engages sports fans across Australia on the national level and not out of Melbourne or Sydney.
Foxtel might continue to deny sports like rugby league and football their deserved revenue streams but the alternatives are looking brighter and brighter as the AFL shows no signs of recouping the ‘giant’ media investment made from Foxtel, Seven and Telstra. There could be a big bidding war for the two highest rating Australian sports and who knows what will result.
Foxtel is definitely in for a reality check, its overwhelming monopoly on sports broadcasting has gone on for far too long.