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A new broadcast deal is fantastic news for the A-League

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Expert
26th May, 2021
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Confirmed reports that Network Ten and its streaming service Paramount+ have snapped up A-League broadcast rights is good news for a competition that can finally move forward with some confidence.

The five-year contract with Ten and its streaming partner Paramount+ contains a clause for a three-year extension.

That’s good news for a competition that has been crying out for some clarity around its future.

It’s even better news for those wanting to watch the A-League on free-to-air, with a guarantee of one game of the round featuring on Channel Ten on Saturday night in primetime.

The rest of the games will be streamed on Paramount+, which recently launched in the United States and is coming to Australia in August.

The streaming service will effectively roll all the existing Network 10 content into its existing library, meaning the A-League will feature alongside a repository of some 20,000 other titles.

The deal will also incorporate the W-League, with at least one game a round potentially set to be broadcast on one of Ten’s digital channels.

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While there’s currently no word on the long-term home of Socceroos and Matildas fixtures, the news signals the end of Foxtel’s 16-season association with the A-League.

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The cable network has copped plenty of criticism over the past couple of seasons for its scaled-back coverage, however there’s no denying it set the standard in the early years of the competition.

This season’s interim broadcast deal also helped keep the lights on at a league that has struggled for years to attract much outside investment.

The move to Ten could also throw a lifeline to former Fox Sports commentator Simon Hill. Widely considered the voice of the game in Australia, Hill was unceremoniously dumped by Fox Sports at the end of last season.

He popped up on a recent segment about the A-League on The Project, so it’s safe to assume Network Ten is well aware of his availability.

Fox Sports television presenter Simon Hill

(Photo by Robb Coxx/Getty Images)

The move could even open the door for Network Ten personalities like Ed Kavalee and Sam Pang to reboot their wildly popular Total Football show alongside comedian Santo Cilauro.

In short, there’s plenty of scope to add value to a league that found much of its commercial appeal locked away behind a paywall on subscription TV.

That said, we shouldn’t dismiss the commitment of Fox Sports to continue broadcasting the league.

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Some of the ongoing criticism of the network, particularly on social media, has been unwarranted – and stems as much from fans not wanting to pay to watch A-League games as it does from actual broadcast quality.

That’s a crossroad Paramount+ will soon arrive at, with some fans online bemoaning the fact that another streaming service currently priced at $8.99 a month adds to the cost of an already-crowded streaming market.

One of the reasons the A-League has found itself in such a financial hole is because so many fans don’t believe it’s worth paying for. That might be up for debate, but at the end of the day the quality of the competition is inextricably linked to its ability to generate cashflow.

That’s what makes the news that Network Ten will soon be the new home of Australia’s domestic competitions so exciting.

The standard of this season’s football has been phenomenal, but there’s no denying that the lack of certainty around a broadcast deal has cast a shadow over the competition.

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Now that it’s sorted, the Australian Professional Leagues can get back to planning for the A-League’s future – including much-needed long-term projects like a national second division.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Fox Sports for everything they’ve done to date.

But the future is Network Ten. Here’s hoping they show football the respect we all know this beautiful game deserves.

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