10 Network ready to secure Saturday and Sunday A-League Football

image copyright - A-League.com.au

Football fans are now looking to the 10 Network to lock in Free-To-Air broadcast rights for A-League football and Australia's next World Cup campaign.

The SMH reports the 10 Network is seeking to secure A-League broadcast rights for the next four seasons. The deal would see two matches per round broadcast on free-to-air television in Saturday and Sunday late afternoon timeslots.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) released the fixture for 2019/2020 A-League season yesterday. The new draw features regular Saturday marquee matches in the 5:15pm AEST timeslot. The early evening timeslot is understood to be an essential requirement from 10 for a potential new broadcast deal.

Negotiations between 10 and the FFA have been taking place for much of the year.

The FFA has scheduled Sunday matches at 4pm AEST. A move also designed to fit in with 10's schedule including The Sunday Project.

Speaking at the Fixture announcement yesterday, FFA Head of Leagues, Greg O'Rourke stated

"Our discussions with potential free to air broadcasters are ongoing and we hope to have a positive announcement before the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 Season commences.”

A key factor for 10 in securing A-League broadcast rights will be the requirement to obtain the matches exclusively. Fox Sports currently broadcasts all games of the competition. The Pay-TV broadcaster would be willing to give up two games per round, but only if it receives significant compensation from 10.

10 will also likely be looking to the FFA to contribute to production costs for broadcasts.

Football fans will be hoping a new Free-To-Air broadcast deal can be locked in before the start of Australia's next World Cup qualifying campaign.

The Australian team will play 8 World Cup Qualifier matches over the next ten months with the first contest to be against Kuwait on September 10. Teams in the qualification group include Jordan, Chinese Taipei, and Nepal.

The deal would undoubtedly be welcomed by the sport's governing body, Football Federation Australia (FFA), who are desperate to expose the struggling code to new audiences, but would it be a good deal for 10?

SBS walked away from the football code in 2016 after years of disappointing ratings and an ongoing dispute over poor scheduling of marquee matches. Since then games have been airing on multichannel 10Boss, but audiences have continued to decline.

One senior executive from a rival network earlier this year, described the decision by 10 to invest in A-League as "dubious", telling TV Blackbox the deal would struggle to make sense even if they held exclusive rights, let alone as a simulcast from Fox Sports with no ability to take a commercial break for 45 minutes.

Audiences for A-League have been in sharp decline over the past two seasons with the opening rounds of the football code struggling for eyeballs against Big Bash Cricket, Australian Open Tennis, AFLW and a resurgent National Basketball competition.

Even more challenging, the A-League Finals series compete for attention against big winter codes, AFL and NRL.

During last summer, Saturday night games averaged audiences of around 75,000 on 10 Boss, with a further 35,000 watching the simulcast on Fox Sports.

However, with the return of the big winter football codes, the final rounds of A-League struggled for media attention. A round 23, Saturday night broadcast of the Western Sydney Wanderers vs Melbourne City fell to a disastrous low of 31,000 viewers on 10 Bold, with just 17,000 additional viewers on Fox Sports. An appalling figure considering the match featured teams from Australia's two biggest cities.

Under the previous broadcast agreement which expired at the of the 2018-19 season, Fox Sports was paying the FFA approximately $2 Million per season for the Free-To-Air (FTA) broadcast rights. Fox Sports then leasing airtime from 10 allowing it to simulcast it Saturday Night game coverage. The deal permitted Fox Sports to receive the bulk of the adverting revenue from the broadcasts, meaning 10 has little incentive to promote the code.

If signed, The new deal would see 10 secure FTA broadcast rights directly from the FFA. The addition of two new teams to an expanded A-League competition would allow 10 to broadcast two games per weekend. With 10 producing its own coverage of the football code, the network would have a much bigger incentive to promote the sport.

Since being taken over by CBS in 2017, 10 has been looking to rebuild its sports programming library. The loss of Big Bash Cricket destroyed 10's ability to promote its 2019 programming line-up, sending the channel's ratings into fourth place, well behind the ABC.

10 has recently invested $100 Million to secure non-exclusive rights to the Melbourne Cup carnival for the next five years, a figure which stunned its rivals. The network has also secured rights for Australian matches at this year's Rugby World Cup, with coverage to be broadcast in prime time later this year.