Exclusive: SBS upsets FFA by demoting A-League coverage back to SBS2

Melbourne Victory celebrates winning the 2014-15 A-League Championship.  image copyright  - Getty Images

Melbourne Victory celebrates winning the 2014-15 A-League Championship.
image copyright  - Getty Images

SBS has angered Football Federation Australia (FFA) by making the decision to demote coverage of the upcoming A-League Football competition from its main SBS channel to the secondary SBS2 as the network looks for improved ratings and revenue on Friday nights.

 

A spokesperson for SBS confirmed the decision to this website stating,

“Moving the A-League from SBS 2 to SBS ONE last season was a strategic move to capitalise on momentum following the 2014 FIFA World Cup and reviewed at the season’s end. This season, SBS has scheduled the A-League on SBS 2 where fans will be able to enjoy their Friday night A-League game for free, with all of SBS’s Friday games streamed live on The World Game website.”

 

When asked if 2015-16 A-League matches would be simulcast on both SBS 2 and SBS HD as has been the case in previous seasons, a spokesperson would only state, “Full broadcast arrangements around the A-League are still being finalised.”

While officials at the FFA were unavailable for comment at the time of publication, this website understands they are privately livid at the decision, and are now keen to see A-League switch broadcasters as soon as possible. The decision comes at a bad time for the FFA, which is also currently struggling to negotiate a pay dispute with players, amid threats the new season could be effected.

 

SBS gained the right to simulcast Friday night A-League matches in 2013. The competition was placed on SBS2 as a method of re-launching the channel. Broadcast ratings for the Friday matches however were dismal with SBS left disappointed at scheduling decisions made by FFA. The following 2014-15 season was moved to the primary channel after SBS received pressure from the FFA to boost audiences. At the time FFA chief operating officer John Kelly told Mumbrella the competition deserved to be taken to a wider audience.

Earlier this year SBS Chairman Michael Ebeid described the 2014-2015 A-League ratings as “pretty much flat” in comparison with the past season.

“We put it (A-League) on SBS One in the hope it would get a good uplift, that uplift didn’t happen.” “It has meant that we have lost more on the A-League in this financial year than we did last financial year, its hurt us both in terms of audience share and ratings.”

 

Its no secret that SBS would love to exit from its current A-League broadcast deal. The network is under huge financial pressure dealing with savage budget cuts and a recent government rejection of a proposal that would have allowed for more advertising on the network.

Management at SBS spent much of the winter months trying to find a potential buyer for the code however with NRL and AFL media rights being negotiated at the same time, the commercial networks were nervous about showing support for the round ball game.

 

SBS, Foxtel and Fox Sports are now entering the 3rd year of a 4-year, $40 Million deal to broadcast the A-League competition. With the FFA hoping to double that figure to $80 Million in the next right deal, its extremely unlikely SBS will remain a broadcaster of the competition.

SBS will announce full details of its A-League broadcast schedule next week. The opening game of the new season will be played on Thursday October 8th between Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar.