With Del Piero on board, now’s the time for FTA television

Tony Tannous Columnist

By Tony Tannous, Tony Tannous is a Roar Expert

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    Del Piero has left Australia and headed to play in India. (Image: AFP)

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    If Ben Buckley wants to leave the game in a healthier state than it has been under his guidance, then he would do well to obtain a free-to-air TV element for this season, capitalising on the arrival of Alessandro Del Piero.

    The talk around the traps is that Fox Sports want exclusivity for the upcoming season, which kicks off in just over three weeks.  

    Given that Fox signed a seven-year deal at the beginning of season two, they certainly should feel entitled to this.

    The football team, led by producer Murray Shaw, have, in the main, done a great job, and they should certainly feel entitled to a sense of reward for backing the game at a time Frank Lowy needed the support.

    History should judge Fox well for forking out $120 million over seven years, even if many fans of the game would suggest the length of the deal has actually impacted on the Socceroos in recent years.

    The FFA, at the time, were certainly in no position to choose.

    And many would argue, under the guidance of Buckley, they are in no greater position now.

    But if there’s ever a time to get the product out to a broader market, beyond the reach of pay TV, it is now.

    The arrival of Del Piero has been described in many quarters as a game-changer, and for many involved in the decisions that guide the future direction of the round ball code in Australia, this should mean being flexible and adaptable.

    By having the A-League at least in part on a free-to-air network, most likely to be SBS, the local game would be in a position to touch the broader audience, aroused by the arrival of Del Piero next week.

    Twelve months from now and who knows what the landscape will look like.

    Certainly, it’s not a time for panic, but having Del Piero start at a time there’s a free-to-air element would help accelerate the growth of the game.

    Indeed, in an ideal world, the deal being brokered now by Buckley and the likes of Fox and SBS should be short, no longer than three years.

    With the AFL and NRL signing five year mega-deals, that would give football an opportunity to be ahead of the cycle by the time the next round of negotiations come around.

    Strategically, that would allow the league some greater exposure in the short term, while Del Piero is in town, but it would also give incoming CEO David Gallop an opportunity to build something over the next couple of seasons that would be worth more in a few years.

    By many measures Buckley’s rein at FFA will not be remembered fondly.

    Chief among the failures has been a retreat out of Queensland, both in the north and south, and an inability to manage the game’s myriad of stakeholders, particularly the club’s owners.

    Too often he’s barely been sighted, bunkered down at FFA headquarters.

    The game’s been told this ‘low-profile’ is essentially so he can work on the next TV deal, the reason, we’ve been told, he was brought in.

    If the sum of this work is a mere doubling of the deal to approximately $40 million dollars a season, as has been reported across the News Ltd network, then he will not be remembered for leaving a great legacy.

    This is especially the case if you believe the suggestion in some quarters that there was a significantly larger offer on the table a couple of years ago.

    But Buckley has a chance to change some of this legacy if he can somehow convince the folk at Fox to share at least a portion of their coverage with a free-to-air station this season.

    Whatever that is, whether one game a week, live or delayed, or a highlights and analysis show, is better than nothing at all.

    Certainly, the news that broke late yesterday that SBS had been granted the right to broadcast this morning’s World Cup qualifier in Amman, a hour delayed, points the way forward.

    As I argued in this article almost two years ago, the more exposure football and the A-League gets in the mainstream, the more likely it is that people will want to sign up to Fox for more.

    It’s an often-used cliche, but for the good of the game, it’s in everyone’s interests to come to the table and make it happen, particularly in light of the gift that has arrived in Del Piero.

    Buckley still has time to make a mark.

    Tony Tannous
    Tony Tannous

    Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyTannousTRBA

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    The Crowd Says (49)

    • September 12th 2012 @ 7:28am
      MV Dave said | September 12th 2012 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      Hopefully SBS do get one game a week plus a highlights show in the next tv deal…the game needs the additional exposure and SBS at least have a history of supporting the game in Oz. However to get the full effect of the Del Piero signing the agreement needs to start this season…not sure if that will happen.
      Exciting times ahead for the HAL in any case and look forward to the Melbourne Derby with 45,000 others at Etihad on Friday the 5th October when Victory belt Heart!

    • September 12th 2012 @ 7:45am
      Kevin said | September 12th 2012 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      Tony great piece, we can only hope that the a league and tv execs have something in between their ears…
      Ten have SFA when it comes to prime time sport, but they are run by half wits, all they look at is ” non ratings period no thanks”
      The A league sooner or later needs to bite the bullet and realize that exposure is key, off course no one goes to the games if no one even knows their on
      SBS still have issues about being forgotten last time

    • September 12th 2012 @ 8:35am
      TC said | September 12th 2012 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      Tony refers to a ” mere doubling of the deal to approximately $40 million dollars a season” – by any objective measure, a doubling in the value of the rights is a pretty good achievement.

      The NRL achieved more than double, which was a very good outcome for them, but they had the runs on the board.

      In previous years, the AFL has managed price increases in the range of 45% to 60% (there has been no doubling in the value in the past 20 years).

      So clearly, a 100% increase to the FFA in the value of the TV rights is a very good result.

      Ask the NBL whether they would gladly have taken a 100% increase, or many other sports that are basically getting zero dollars from TV.

      Soccer fans need to approach this subject with some realism.


    • September 12th 2012 @ 8:48am
      JAJI said | September 12th 2012 @ 8:48am | ! Report

      Tony you make very good sense in most of your articles – however I cannot accept commentary from journlaists that a rise from 17 to 40 million a year (an increase of 135%) is disappointing given the financial disrepair the TV Industry is in at present. You will find this is very close if not better than the Rugby Union deal (hard to gauge accurate numbers as the $437 is split over 3 countries and Australia has the least demand of the 3 countries). I do know the Rugby Deal was a 30% increase – so you appear to be whinging about 135%?

      I remind you the deal for season one of the A League was $750,000 and dont need to remind you what kind of dollars were running around in Soccer Australia days. A $40 million deal with SBS and Foxtel together is a very good result, will fully fund all salary cap at A League clubs and will stabilise our game going forward. To complete the picture better performances from our National Side would also help….

      Remember Buckley inherited a very long 7 year deal only 1 year in. Maybe the 7 year deal was too long but they had to do the deal back then coming from $750,000 a year – hence the Socceroos were thrown in

      • September 12th 2012 @ 9:55am
        TC said | September 12th 2012 @ 9:55am | ! Report

        I agree with your points, I have said something similar above, but some clarification on the numbers is warranted (and I am more a numbers man than a wordsmith).

        While I too have always understood that the 7 year deal was worth $120 milion ($17,142,857 per annum), the latest reports actually described it as being worth $18 million per annum in cash terms, and $3 million in contra.

        The deal currently being mooted, and to which Tony is referring, is touted as being $35 million per annum in cash terms and $5 million in contra (or $40 million in total).

        So in cash terms, the value is going from $17 to $18 million per annum to $35 million per annum, which is double or a 100% increase (more or less).

        It would be incorrect to see it as an increase from $17 million to $40 million – that’s the key point.

        But agree with your points generally.


        • September 12th 2012 @ 6:07pm
          phutbol said | September 12th 2012 @ 6:07pm | ! Report

          Excuse my ignorance, but contra is what exactly? Value of free advertising?

          • September 12th 2012 @ 7:04pm
            TC said | September 12th 2012 @ 7:04pm | ! Report

            Yes, more or less, promotion, anything paid in-kind.


            • September 12th 2012 @ 10:55pm
              Kasey said | September 12th 2012 @ 10:55pm | ! Report

              Yes when football fans complain about the “lack of promotion being done by FFA” they are usually fresh from viewing a FTA TV advert for one of the other sports, being paid for not by the AFL/NRL (they pay to create the ad) but part of contra is the commercial stations running promotions for their partners and giving it a dollar value.

              • September 13th 2012 @ 9:40am
                phutbol said | September 13th 2012 @ 9:40am | ! Report

                So we can expect nobody to see FTA adds on SBS in the same way nobody sees the ads on Fox now?

                Thats where FFA should get Ch10 involved. Dunno if its accepted practice but they could flip Ch10 a highlights package for nothing more than contra which also mentions the SBS live coverage… Or even if Ch10 wont cross promote SBS (given they arent a ‘real’ commercial rival it might be doable??) at least it puts the A-league presence on a ‘mainstream’ FTA channel….

    • September 12th 2012 @ 8:50am
      Punter said | September 12th 2012 @ 8:50am | ! Report

      Excellent article Tony, I agree that the deal should not be longer than 3 years, as seen by the signing of Del Piero for the game in this country will just grow. Importance to show both Socceroos (delayed) & A-League on FTA, if this was the main reason for the lesser amount $40M, than so be it. However, I think Buckley’s reign will not be remembered well. I understand he is there for the TV deal, but I wish Gallop would take over ASAP.

    • Roar Guru

      September 12th 2012 @ 9:36am
      Fussball ist unser leben said | September 12th 2012 @ 9:36am | ! Report

      Nice article, Tony.

      There seems to be no argument that the new deal will include:

      1. Foxtel (all live)
      – HAL: 135 H&A plus 5 finals
      – AUS NT: 10-12 WCQs plus friendlies

      2. SBS
      – HAL (live): 27 matches plus 5 finals
      – AUS NT (1 hr delay): 10-12 WCQs plus friendlies

      a) SBS will provide Foxtel with the feed from the match it broadcasts, which will reduces FoxSports’ HAL production costs by 20% p.a.
      b) FoxSports will provide SBS with the feed from the AUS NT matches

      The big, and most important, deal will be the “digital/online rights”. All indicators suggest that, by the turn of the decade (possibly sooner), online platforms will be the primary choice for accessing LIVE sport.

      I’d like to see FFA aggressively enter this space with PayPerView for HAL charged at $100-200/yr (less than $2/match), which gives access to every HAL & AUS NT match.

      Additionally, I think we’ll see every match played by the other AUS NT (women, u23, u20, u17 – male & female) streamed live on the FFA’s website – the FFA has already done this for AUS WNT matches & ABC & FFA will stream W-League matches live next season.

      An exciting era awaits AUS football.

      • September 12th 2012 @ 9:09pm
        theworldofando said | September 12th 2012 @ 9:09pm | ! Report

        Hey Fuss, where did you get this information? What’s your source?

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