David Gallop’s biggest test as Football Federation Australia CEO was always going to be his ability to negotiate a new TV deal that not only brings in significant revenue to underpin the game’s financial base but also delivers a much wider audience for soccer.
It’s a tall order, given the current woes he and the sport’s management are wrestling with: plateauing crowds, falling broadcast ratings and a raft of issues with fans who recently boycotted games.
But given the latest revelation of ratings figures comparing the Women’s Big Bash League positively with the A-League, his task has become ever more urgent.
Yes, the comparison figures published on Tuesday indicating the WBBL pulled substantially more viewers than the A-League are not a strict guide as they certainly don’t compare apples with apples.
The cricket was on a mainstream – well, almost – free-to-air network while the soccer was on Fox Sports and SBS’s hidden second channel. The take-up rate for pay television in Australia is poor by international standards, with only about one-third of homes paying for a subscription.
Inevitably any sport that relies on a pay broadcaster for the bulk of its viewing figures is up against it when competing with a well-marketed product on a well-supported free-to-air station.
What the figures do show in stark clarity is how important a good free-to-air deal is for the future if soccer is to build its audience and strengthen its financial position.
It also illustrates what a poor return the game is getting from its traditional partner, SBS, where ratings for Friday night live games have routinely been disappointing.
In fact, the sooner Gallop and his negotiating team can extricate themselves from their damaged relationship with SBS the more likely the game is to prosper.
FFA believed it had negotiated a deal with Channel Ten – which telecasts the men’s and women’s Big Bash Leagues – to take up the slack from SBS for this season, given that SBS was reported to be keen to get out of the last year of its contract.
But that chance fell through because of political and regulatory delays which hindered the approval of a deal which would have allowed Foxtel to buy 15 per cent of Network Ten.
The ACCC had addressed concerns that the $77 million deal might weaken competition for sports rights. Ultimately the Canberra regulators decided that competition from other networks and streaming services would be strong enough to survive the link up between the pay operator Fox and the free-to-air broadcaster Ten.
Unfortunately for FFA that approval wasn’t given until late in October, a fortnight after the A-League kicked off, so it was locked into its deal with SBS.
SBS’s decision to put the Friday night action onto its second station has been a ratings disaster. Last season it was shown on SBS one, and reports on Tuesday suggested the switch of channel had seen viewing figures fall by 110,000 a week.
The Big Bash League is a ratings bonanza for Ten, but it lasts less than two months.
Ten, and the other big free-to-air networks, have a dearth of premium sports content over summer and all are reportedly eyeing off the A-League as a potential schedule filler.
The issue for the FFA is square the circle, especially if, in the new broadcast deal, the free-to-air networks are not keen on paying premium dollars for FFA’s premium product.
It desperately needs the money to underpin the game’s future, but, as the women’s cricket has shown, it desperately needs a good free-to-air deal to increase its broadcast ratings and audience reach even if most keen sports fans regard the coverage of sport on pay TV to be superior to that of free-to-air.
Simply being on Ten, Nine or Seven would deliver hundreds of thousands of extra viewers, as televisions in millions of homes are switched on and whatever is being screened will count for ratings figures, whether the matches concerned are being watched avidly or not.
That is certainly not the case for a relatively obscure channel like SBS2.
FFA may find itself forced to choose between money and exposure. The decision it makes will have significant ramifications for the future growth of the game.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲美睫培训学校.