A new Australian football taskforce made up of former golden-generation Socceroos recently proposed an innovative idea for future Australian football broadcast distribution.
Called “FFA TV” in a document seen by journalists at the Sydney Morning Herald and The World Game, the proposal is centred around a Netflix-style, all-you-can-watch subscription model. Under the model all Australian football content – from single-camera NPL broadcasts to A-League, W-League and national team fixtures – would be bundled in a single package for consumers.
The fact the A-League is now run by an independent body means it could technically be sold separately to the rest of the FFA’s stable – time will tell if that makes economic sense.
The proposal also mentions the possibility of screening a second-tier competition that is linked to the A-League through promotion and relegation. The logistics of this make my head spin when you factor in the current standard of NPL streams. Sure, games are available to watch online, but the viewing experience is akin to jumping on Facetime as your mate points his iPhone at the pitch.
Are fans of a relegated side – who are used to a comprehensive broadcast – going to settle for this standard? Would the viewing numbers for a second-tier match be much higher than current NPL figures? These are important details that must be factored in.
The game is need of a future-proof broadcasting model. It will need to enhance the image of the sport and help to bring in new fans. Since the competition restart, the quality of Fox Sports’ A-League broadcasts has dropped significantly. It’s a shame, because the actual football has been quite watchable.
The FFA’s deal with Fox Sports will expire in July next year – following the completion of the amended 2020/21 season – and the chances of another A-League game airing on the pay-TV network past this point in time are slim. It’s unclear whether another bidder, such as Optus or DAZN, will make a play at the rights going forward.
Optus have been making some moves indicating they are taking an interest in Australian football, but there has been no official communication from the company on the topic.
It’s a given – the A-League simply has to be broadcast in some fashion. The league cannot move forward without a broadcast agreement. And perhaps it is better that FFA cuts out the middleman.
FFA TV has seen some support from those with industry experience. The founder of sports video firm VPA Technologies, Luke McCoy, told The World Game he believes the proposed model could work. He stresses the importance of the FFA having complete control and ownership of all media content.
“Before, the only way you could distribute your product en masse was through the linear [TV] channel. They paid the money for it, you took the cheque and that was it,” McCoy said.
“And now the light on that model has been shut, probably with Covid faster than anyone predicted. But nonetheless, it was happening regardless, this movement towards OTT, towards cloud and remote production.”
Production costs could be lowered, especially if the FFA thinks long-term and keeps it all in-house. One idea mentioned is a proportion of funds from each grassroots player’s registration fees could be diverted to cover some or all production costs.
There is also the possibility of selling one or two games per week to a free-to-air network to help grow the number of eyeballs on football.
However, assuming there are no major disruptions to the A-League once the COVID-19 threat has been dealt with, the FFA potentially stand to make more money through FFA TV.
Perhaps the centralisation of all football content will convince some of these participants to begin paying for professional content.
However, if a portion of participant registration fees starts being put towards production costs for the streaming service, it would make it hard for the FFA to double dip and ask participants to pay again.
The introduction of Kayo helped, but for years football fans were forced to sign up to Foxtel to access the majority of the game’s content. This is another reason the price of FFA TV needs to resemble other streaming services. Ideally, it will also allow the same flexibility as, say, Netflix – month-to-month contracts where the minimum commitment is not in the hundreds of dollars.
Pricing for the service has not been released, but assuming it would run as over-the-top streaming, it would need to be in the $15-$20 per month range to remain competitive with Kayo and other sports streaming platforms, as well as entertainment streaming like Netflix and Stan.
A free trial at the standard duration – let’s say one month – would be a good idea as it’s a tried and tested model for streaming. There should be well-produced highlight videos available on the platform for free.
FFA could consider other free offerings – such as classic A-League or Socceroos games – as another measure to drive new subscriptions.
There will be periods of time without regular football. Marquee content – in this case international football – would be screened at irregular intervals. This would be pertinent to keep in mind.
FFA TV ticks quite a few boxes for football in Australia. It’s certainly a nice idea in theory. Time will tell if it will even be implemented, and then whether or not it functions well.
It would be nice for football to no longer be beholden to the whims of producers at Fox Sports. Independence is rarely a bad thing.
There would need to be a strong business case. FFA would need to make sure the right people are involved in the creation and running of the service.
But I like the innovative thinking. As long as the proper due diligence is done, I’m hopping on the FFA TV train.