The final Saturday of September 2020 saw the first of the State NPL grand finals being played, with ACT being the first federation to conclude its 2020 competition.
How will the great game be consumed post 2021?
Now that Fox Sports has heavily decreased their financial support of the game, the long-standing partnership between sport and broadcaster will most likely end at the conclusion of next season.
Some people will see this as the end of the sport as we know it on Australian shores, while others will see it as the game finally being freed of its cable TV shackles, and this now presents a great opportunity for the code as a whole. I, for one, very much subscribe to the latter view.
Now is the time for the game and its administrators to take a leap of faith, to back the game and themselves, and to invest in its own OTT streaming platform, whether it be on the existing My Football app or FFA TV.
If this is executed correctly, the opportunities are endless.
Imagine watching A-League and W-League and second division games on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, a wrap-up show on the Monday, FFA Cup on the Tuesday and Wednesday, and a football show on a Thursday night with the upcoming teams, and having players, coaches, administrators and fans all debating the action, both on and off the field, debating tactics and possible transfers.
The platform could also show Young Matildas and Young Socceroos games (assuming the seniors are tied up to a broadcaster), state championships of all junior age groups, plus all the top NPL games from across the states and territories, all on a weekly basis.
That sort of line-up would be every football fanatic’s dream, and if done properly, and with the right sponsors on board, who would help pay for the production costs, this could very well become a reality in the next 12 to 24 months.
In terms of the revenues to pay for all this, which is obviously the big question mark here, I’ll admit that I don’t have all the answers.
But I’m thinking if this platform could charge $20 a month (this is an arbitrary figure), not too many football people would think twice.
At that monthly figure, if the game could get 250,000 subscribers – a realistic target – that would bring in $60 million per year, plus all the added sponsors, plus any simulcast deals on ABC, Optus, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and whoever else would be interested in acquiring the rights.
Plus they could also look to branch out into some of the larger south-east Asian countries like Indonesia and the Philippines, perhaps even with commentary in those tongues.
On a side note, I love the media coverage that Optus Sport provides for the game, and would also love to see them take up the domestic rights, but I’ve written this piece thinking that this will not happen.
With the right people, and the right approach, this OTT platform can be done successfully.
The game has unfortunately pandered to broadcasters for long enough, where all the ongoing decisions always put the game last (a summer comp, played in boiling temperatures, engineered and modified fixtures, shortened season window to suit them, the list goes on).
The time has come for the game to think big, to look after itself and to go after its objectives, which is obviously to grow and ultimately to reach its potential in this country.