Are football’s TV ratings actually important?

Midfielder Roar Rookie

By Midfielder, Midfielder is a Roar Rookie


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    I was one of the people who believed football could rate an audience of between 200,000 and 300,000 per match on a commercial free-to-air station.

    This was all based on two things. The first was that the media would go from hostile to positive, whereas in reality, negative media has gone into hyperdrive.

    The second was that Network Ten would promote football. The kind would say they have been poor, the cruel would say they have been pathetic.

    I often read US websites and a recent tweet had me puzzled. It said that the traditional US sports were all losing ratings and that only football showed a growth, though it was only four to eight per cent off a small base depending on the broadcaster.

    One particular football site I read is called Big Soccer, and reading from its forums over the years I concluded that the biggest fan groups in the US are millennials or generation Y, who were born between 1977 and 2002, and generation Z, or centennials, who were born after 2002. I can recall reading research in Australia also saying these were also the biggest groups we have.

    I became somewhat confused as to why MLS was growing while other sports were failing, and in trying to answer my own question I stumbled upon the 2017 Web Summit.

    While watching some of the YouTube videos I realised I had deserted basic business principles in looking at Australian football, so here are my two huge confessions: free-to-air TV ratings are nowhere near as important as we think, and we need to go back to basic business principals on broadcast platforms.

    Further to the video above is a 2016 Conversation article that suggests that a bottom-up approach is the way to go, which lends enormous support to the creation of a second division and for promotion and relegation when ready.

    In the video, one presenter described the various media platforms and breaks them down not by race, gender, or wealth but by age. He says in brief that TV is a ‘boomer’ platform and neither millennials nor gen Z watch TV. They prefer digital platforms.

    In another video, generation Z people are described as being different to millennials in that they love creating for platforms.

    What this says to me is a digital platform could be more important for football than free-to-air TV. Consider the following calculations.

    Last year’s ratings had the A-League attracting roughly a third of the AFL’s audience. Fox paid the AFL $220 million per year for approximately 220 games of three hours duration – that’s $220 million for 660 hours or $333,333 per hour. Football provides 140 games of two hours duration – or 280 hours for $50 million or $178,571 per hour – which is 53 per cent of the AFL’s hourly rate.

    Free-to-air TV can blame the FFA if it wants to, but nobody wanted the rights and we got $4 million.

    Attempting to tie this together, football’s fan base doesn’t watch free-to-air TV; they watch online platforms, meaning we would be better off on Facebook, Amazon, YouTube or some other digital broadcaster.

    The AFL, NRL, rugby union and cricket models that have traditional baby boomer and generation X audiences who are already fixed to their codes do not fit with our fan base. I would go further and the next FFA CEO should be a millennial.

    In summary, free-to-air TV does not fit our fan demographic but still has a place in the evolution of football.

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    The Crowd Says (183)

    • December 13th 2017 @ 2:28am
      Midfielder said | December 13th 2017 @ 2:28am | ! Report

      Another link I put in was but did not appear in the article was

      Media Under Fire | Web Summit 2017… the lady on the left explains gen z and they are into creating how they watch …

    • December 13th 2017 @ 2:45am
      Midfielder said | December 13th 2017 @ 2:45am | ! Report

      Opps the link is

      Understanding Your Followers in the Digital Age | Web Summit 2017

      • December 13th 2017 @ 8:43am
        chris said | December 13th 2017 @ 8:43am | ! Report

        wow! Those average ages of people who watch news on msm is quite staggering!
        All around the 60 and 70 year olds. Seriously how do companies swallow the garbage that advertising on TV is profitable?

        • December 13th 2017 @ 5:24pm
          LuckyEddie said | December 13th 2017 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

          You may not have noticed , living in your sad IT world, but a lot those people in their 60’s and 70’s have a rather large amount of money to spend.

    • December 13th 2017 @ 6:49am
      Buddy said | December 13th 2017 @ 6:49am | ! Report

      What was that supposed old Chinese curse? “May you live in interesting times” – well no doubt that much is changing around us particularly in the media. Even a news/forum site such as this does not appear to serve the needs of the time poor teenager or twenty something. I coach young adults and teenagers and very few of them watch football live on tv whether it is FTA or paid content. What I hear and see are little snippets of games. My teenage players in particular will find clips from recent games or funny bits and they will send them around to friends using one of the many instant picture or messenger apps. Quite a few attend live games but they do not sit down and watch 90 minutes of other broadcasts. We constantly hear that traditional methods of providing sport to viewers is alive and well but I am not convinced. It is being propped up by our older generations and looking to the future, it does not appear to have a survival plan.
      It wasn’t so long ago that email replaced letter writing as it is instant and can be short and sharp and delivered without delay. However, email is now considered long hand and whilst most people appear to have an address or two, much is only skimmed over or discarded due possibly to the volume of junk being distributed. This in turn leads to shorter message services and all the other variations. So there is a story for now and one for the future and no doubt they will vary enormously. It is just a matter of how far away it is?

    • December 13th 2017 @ 6:53am
      Waz said | December 13th 2017 @ 6:53am | ! Report

      I have three kids (oldest is a teenager) and they do not watch television. I don’t mean they don’t watch much, I mean they don’t watch it at all. And they’re not unusual.

      They do watch stuff but it’s all streamed over the internet and they’re not streaming traditional FTAs channels. Ask a kid who their favourite youtuber is and you will get an answer, but your response will be “who?”

      Football has to figure this out, as do other codes, and decide:

      1. What content kids want – it generally isn’t the full match but rather shorter, magazine, highlight style programs

      2. What platform is most appropriate (YouTube etc)

      3. How they make kids aware of the content – most kids get to stuff by referral from friends or someone they already watch/follow/are connected on-line with

      4. How they can commercialise this.

      The lack of a digital strategy is a potential disaster for football.

      • December 13th 2017 @ 7:39am
        Buddy said | December 13th 2017 @ 7:39am | ! Report

        Couldn’t agree more! I’m starting to believe that tv ratings figures are complete nonsense and being produced purely for the benefit of potential advertisers (not another comspircy theory surely?) I just don’t know anyone that goes home after work, has a family meal together every night and then they all sit down and watch “The Voice” or MKR or whatever the latest rtremding program is being served up. I ask[layers, I ask work colleagues and ask about their children’s viewing habits etc etc. the most I ever hear is that a program was recorded and they watched a bit of it but by far the majority answer is that our children are not watching traditional tv. My 14 year old footballers have sometimes watched some football highlights on their phones but more often than not it is snippets from youtube or snapchat/instagram, twitter, it is amazing the amount of stuff that goes out via this medium. I have spoken to young adults about quality podcasts on football and they look at me as if I am from another planet…… listen to a 45 minute podcast? … no time for that………. and it continues.

    • December 13th 2017 @ 7:45am
      Nemesis said | December 13th 2017 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      Spot on with all your points, Middy.

      As you’d well know, this is something I’ve been banging on for a while. The nature of my business is to devour as much information about new markets, new consumer trends, etc.

      What you’ve mentioned about the change in consumer behaviour has been gaining momentum for a while, but the reaction of the traditional media was to ignore the “barbarians at the gate”. Ridicule the quality of the content delivered and, in the case of Australia, buy the Government (Murdoch buying Turnbull to delay the NBN) to impede the infrastructure that will eventually kill your traditional business.

      I am not a millennial, or centennial, or GenY or GenZ.

      Yet, even I do not watch FTA Tv any more. I’ve got Cable Broadband with unlimited data downloads, so I no longer watch any linear FTA TV. Not an exaggeration. I do not watch even 1 minute of FTA TV any more.

      The only point I disagree with this opinion piece is to say: I think FTA TV ratings are still viewed very highly by sponsors, advertisers & old-fashioned journalists, who still think newspapers & FTA TV are kings.

    • December 13th 2017 @ 8:26am
      Fadida said | December 13th 2017 @ 8:26am | ! Report

      A fine read Mid. Like the posters above we don’t watch FTA. The only time we have the tv on is to stream Netflix or watch the A-league on Fox.

      I’m not sure about a millennial being in charge though. The right man/woman can be any generation as long as they can take the game forward.