|Will fans see more of the Socceroos?|
It is the one debate that everyone has a strong opinion on and the one debate that, shortly, will be put to bed.
Should Socceroos games be placed on the anti-siphoning list?
For those living under a rock, or outside Australia, the anti-siphoning list is a Government-approved list of sporting events that are “culturally significant” to Australians, and thus, are only available for Free-to-Air (FTA) to bid on.
The current anti-siphoning list expires on 31 December 2010 and the Government are preparing to introduce the new legislation into Parliament this week.
While many argue that having Socceroos games on FTA is crucial as it drastically increases exposure (currently only 34% of Australians have Pay-TV), is placing the Socceroos on the anti-siphoning list the best thing for the sport?
As it currently stands the Socceroos are broadcast on FOX SPORTS as part of a seven-year agreement that ends in 2013. FOX SPORTS paid $120 million for the rights, or just over $17 million a year.
The deal has been a tremendous one for FOX SPORTS with the Socceroos recording the two highest rating shows in history across the entire FOXTEL platform, with more in the top ten.
FOX SPORTS wants the Socceroos and they’re prepared to pay big money for it.
But, by placing Socceroos games on the anti-siphoning list FOX SPORTS are unable to even bid for the rights, therefore reducing the competition for the FTA networks and in turn the money they will pay for the rights. Without competition amongst the bidders, the value of the rights is greatly reduced.
Is that good for Football?
There are important details, however, that cloud the picture even further.
For starters, it is only Socceroos World Cup Qualifiers played in
that are on the anti-siphoning list. Away qualifiers and friendly internationals aren’t on the list. Australia
Theoretically, the FFA could sell the rights to friendly games as a separate package. Away World Cup qualifiers are a little different in that generally the FFA buy these rights and then on-sell them, currently to FOX SPORTS.
Again, theoretically, there is nothing stopping the FFA from agreeing to on-sell all these games to a particular network, say FOX SPORTS, and packaging them up with friendly games.
In the course of a year, there would be more away WCQ’s and friendly games than there would be home WCQ’s.
But the question is whether the FFA would want to split up the Socceroos rights, or sell the rights to all games to one network, as they currently do with FOX SPORTS.
But what of the A-League?
Despite a push from ONE HD early in the year the include one game per week from the A-League on the anti-siphoning list, the A-League, it seems will be free from the list and open to a competitive bidding “war”.
Most people recognise that bundling the Socceroos/A-League together is what helped reap the FFA $120m back in 2006, when the A-League was in its infancy.
But with the Socceroos now seemingly destined for the anti-siphoning list and a FTA network, just how much value is the A-League worth on its own? The general feeling is not much, at least not as much as it would be bundled with the Socceroos.
Is getting less money for A-League TV rights good for Football?
The answer, of course, is a resounding no. More and more sports are relying on their television deals to fund the game. Certainly it was hoped the next TV deal for the A-League would help it out of its current financial predicament and put it on the path to profit and, ultimately, a stronger competition.
The FFA recognise the importance of FTA, they have repeatedly mentioned over the last few years their desire to have both the Socceroos and A-League on FTA. But they also want strong competition for the rights to bump up the price they receive.
Ben Buckley travelled to
last week to meet with Senator Conroy, the man responsible for the new legislation, imploring him to keep the Socceroos OFF the list. Buckley, the man who masterminded the AFL’s last deal worth $780 million, knows how important it is to have competition. Canberra
Football is not yet at the stage where networks are climbing over themselves to secure television deals, we need all the competition we can get and FOX SPORTS are a big (and wealthy) competitor. Take them out of the equation and all you have left is, most likely, ONE HD.
Given the FFA know how important FTA is, there was a good chance that they would have sold the rights to a FTA network in any case.
Claims that having no anti-siphoning list will lead to all sports simply being sold off to Pay-TV are just baseless scare-mongering.
Every sport knows the value of FTA and they would ensure that the right balance is reached between FTA and Pay-TV. But they shouldn’t be dictated to by a Government, to be even more precise a Minister (it is Sen. Conroy, and Sen. Conroy only, who determines the make up of the anti-siphoning list), on who they can and can’t sell their rights to.
Out of this Football appear to be on the course for less money for Socceroos rights and less money for A-League rights. In return they will get more viewers and exposure for a minimum of 2-3 games a year.
Less money for the FFA means less ability to promote the A-League, less ability to initiate important components of the National Development Plan and National Curriculum, less ability to grow the game at the grassroots.
Is that good for Football?
What I think will happen…
Socceroos games (all) – ONE HD
A-League – FOX SPORTS
FFA Cup – FOX SPORTS
2015 Asian Cup – FOX SPORTS
Asian Champions League – FOX SPORTS