If there is a really important part for the survival of any sport in this day and age is television. Without TV a sport aiming to be a major sport would be marginalised to be watched only by the true believers. Without TV exposure there will be no substiantial sponsorships and therefore no money. One of the main reason Lowy engaged Ben Buckley as FFA CEO was because Buckley successfully negotiated a TV deal for the AFL.
Where a sport is shown on TV gives an indication of the pecking order of where a sport sits within the Australian sporting culture. AFL is on the top with Rugby League and cricket next. The A-League probably come next.I think that lots of the credit for the viability of the A-League has to go to Foxtel. They were there to provide TV broadcasts since the start when it was an unknown product and no one knew whether it would prove a success.
The issue with Foxtel is however that it is not free to air. That is that only people that are interested in football are motivated to pay to get it. This raises the issues that it doesn’t broaden the viewership beyond the committed fan and the perception that unlike AFL, Rugby League and Cricket, football is not on a free to air channel. And this is somewhat galling to some football fans that we are not ‘popular’ enough to be on FTA like other sports.
This season Foxtel made an arrangement with SBS to show the Friday night match and this has proven to be fairly successful, but could the A-League be on a commercial free to air channel like the AFL and the NRL?
Leaving the secure bosom of Foxtel would be risky. As I stated earlier Foxtel was there at the start when no commercial interest was interested in the A-League and they provided a stable partner. Some see SBS as still the ‘ethnic’ station and not mainstream enough. The fact is that SBS has been committed to football since they started showing NSL and national team matches. They believe in football and they are committed to the success of the sport. They know football and treat it with the respect that it deserves.
So how would the A-League go if it was given to a commercial FTA channel? Channel Nine has the cricket, Channel 7 has the tennis (albeit just in January) and then whe the AFL pre season starts in February/March it concentrated on that sport as it is the traditional AFL channel. Channel 10 has the Big Bash. Would they make way for football? Also while football may be a good options for the non rating periods of December – January I do wonder what would happen during the rating months of October-November and February-April. How would an A-League match fare in scheduling?
Commercial TV have their digital channels. At the moment I can see how Channel 7 is broadcasting one match on their main channel and another one on 7Two. Same could be said about Channel 10 and One.
But the question is how well those digital channels would rate. If we have the A-League only shown on 7Two or One, would it be bettert to leave things as they are with Foxtel and SBS? How much more ratings would the A-League get if it gets relagated to the secon tier digital channels?
If football wants to be on equal footing with the AFL and the NRL it should command to be shown on the main channles like them. Otherwise it is not worth the risk. Let’s stick with TV that appreciate football and understands it.