Could the A-League ever match the two dominant winter codes in this country and secure a $1 billion TV rights deal?
Every successful sporting competition is built on the back of lucrative TV deals. The A-League is no exception, if wants to grow into a powerhouse of Australian sport. The expansion of teams, salary cap increases, academies, international football stars, promotion and relegation…it all hinges on being able to find the money to fund this wish-list.
Is such a dream achievable? What would the league need to look like in order to achieve it?
Both the AFL and NRL have remarkably similar deals, so looking at them could be used as a measuring stick for the A-League. Both codes have struck $1 billion-plus media deals and provide between 180 and 190 regular season games plus a four-week finals system.
You can watch games on different platforms (TV, Laptop, phone, tablet) and can be seen on free-to-air channels (Seven and Nine) and Foxtel.
To match the amount of games they offer, the A-League would at least need to offer 37 rounds of a regular season. With 10 teams, this would give broadcasters 185 games to show, plus a three-week finals format.
Could A League teams sustain that long a season? Would we need to increase the amount of teams in order to stick to the current format of 27 rounds so as not to lose traction when the other codes begin their season?
Football in this country is unique, as there is so much content that could be delivered. From the A-League to the FFA Cup, the NPL, the NYL, the W-League, All-Stars, Asian Cup, World Cup, International friendlies. There are so many possibilities to offer different packages to broadcasters.
The AFL has a truly national footprint, where as the NRL dominates NSW and Queensland. The AFL has many natural breaks in its televised game that enable a lot of ads to be shown. The NRL has State of Origin – a three game contest with a grand final like intensity drawing millions of viewers and sponsorship dollars.
Which path should football take to increase its media deal revenue? Should it seek to have teams from all over the country or should it seek to dominate its traditional stronghold of NSW and Victoria? Both paths are equally valid and have been proven to be commercially successful for the other codes.
How would the game contend with the fact there aren’t many natural breaks in which to show ads? The AFL can show two quick ads after every goal, coupled with first, second and third quarter breaks it offers a lot of potential to TV stations to make a lot of revenue if they show an AFL game.
Football by contrast is a low scoring game and part of the charm of watching it on TV is hearing the stadium erupt in noise while watching the goal in slow motion replay. This would be lost if they instantly cut to a commercial if a goal was scored.
What incentives could the A-League give broadcasters that showing a game will bring in revenue for a TV station? The global reach of football and the ability to sell games anywhere in the world knowing people will watch some sort of match is an avenue they could explore.
Whatever the outcome, it will be exciting to see what the FFA can negotiate.