Possible SBS abandonment of soccer another sign of not being ‘Special’ anymore

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An article in FourFourTwo Australia has spelled out that the A-League has been a rating disaster for SBS.

Kevin Perry, Co-Editor of the website DeciderTV and an expert on New Media & Sport, says the A-League has been a “disaster” for SBS and doubts the broadcaster will enter into any bidding war for the A-League and Socceroos broadcast rights.

“The A-League has not been a rating success,” Perry said.

“The A-League has been a disaster for SBS and they are very keen to dump the rights as quickly as they could. They tried to get rid of the rights of the A-League in these past 12 months and they couldn’t find anyone to buy it off them.”

As the article goes on to say SBS was once known as the spiritual home of football after a 35-year history of broadcasting football. In my opinion it was the advent of SBS who advanced the cause of the sport in Australia. Not only it broadcast the NSL, but I think it was the decision to broadcast the World Cup live that made many australians realise what a huge event it was. If my memory doesn’t fail me, Johnny Warren said that the broadcast of the Japan/Korea World Cup in 2002 (which for Australia was finallly at an accessible time zone) that allowed more to see it, including some influential people in governemt which asked why Australia wasn’t there (remember that this was the first world cup after the very sucessful Sydney Olympics). And apparently this was one element that started the rolling of the process to reform football in Australia that resulted in the Crawford Report.

In fact SBS was so much in the sport that it was dubbed ‘Soccer Bloody Soccer’ by some (the fact that Channel 7 wasn’t dubbed ‘Football Bloody Football’ escaped them). The person that perhaps was most instrumental in making sure that SBS was the ‘football channel’, Les Murray bemoans the state of affairs.

Les Murray who hosted SBS football for 34 years and retired last year said that he would be saddened if the multicultural broadcaster decided not to broadcast football.

“If SBS was to dump football after building its market from a few thousand to millions over 35 years that would be a great shame,” Murray said.

“I’d be very disappointed in that I hope that is not true, I hope that is not the case. I still believe SBS does a great job in covering the game. It treats the game with total respect, it treats the football audience with intellectual respect, and it’s analysis of football is of the highest quality, so I think it still does a good job.

“Bear in mind that when it comes to ratings its ratings are not governed by what channel something is on. It’s governed by the content. Football ratings are ultimately driven by the quality of the football not the quality of the presenters or the commentators. If the football quality is good then it will rate whether it’s on SBS or whether it’s not on SBS.”

The problem here is the term ‘multicultural broadcaster’. SBS hasn’t been so for some time. Look at most of the programs shown on SBS and they have really little ‘multicultural’ about them. I remember when SBS stated in the 1980’s most programs were not in English and subtitled and noe the reverse is the case. Look at any evening schedule. You have Insight, Who do you think you are, Underground Britain, 24 hours in Emergency, Fargo. Then you have the movie ‘Kill Bill 2’. I am not saying that I don’t love these programs, I do. But I think they target the English-Speaking inner suburban-tertiary educated viewer that anything multicultural. The elimination of football would continue this trend.

Perhaps we can’t blame SBS management too much. When SBS was instituted in the 80’s it was an echo from a different Australia. When governments were there to provide services, even to minorities. Now evertything has to be justified, and if something doesn’t rate it doesn’t bring the money in. As the article in FourFourTwo states:

After poor ratings on SBS One last year the live Friday night game was relegated back to SBS Two.

Perry said: “SBS has a funding crisis at the moment. The Government have cut their budget. They have a four-year deal but it’s just worked out horribly for them.

“The ratings have been terrible. The Friday night games, has been a problem because the FFA haven’t really scheduled the best matches for a Friday night.

“A lot of the best matches have been on a Saturday night. It hasn’t worked out for SBS at all and they just want to get away from football – they just don’t have the money.”

In the old days SBS would have seen the provision of football as a service to the communities, whether it rated ot not. This is no longer the case.

But perhaps what’s happening at SBS echoes what has happened in Australian football as well. As football was ‘de-ethicised’ with the advent of the A-League, SBS has been as well. You can sense watching SBS broacasting the NSL back in 1988 that it was seen also as a community service. A service to the communities that were running those clubs.

Whatever happens in the future the danger of the bad ratings is that once the next round of TV rights goes around there may not be takers for the A-League, or the money may not be sufficient to grow the League. And despite soccerphobes and those who still resent the advent of the A-League may rejoice it would be bad for the sport of football in Australia as a whole.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Possible SBS abandonment of soccer another sign of not being ‘Special’ anymore

  1. Alex

    Channel 7 wasn’t called footy bloody footy because it wouldn’t habe been a “clever” expansion of FBF because channel 7 wasn’t ever called FBF! SBS, on the other hand, was called SBS, and so claiming the acronym was “clever”.

    IIRC, Channel 7 did used to brand themselves as being the footy network.

    If it is any consolation, apparently channel 7 in Perth required the WAFL to pay them to broadcast. If that is what A-League has to do, so be it. I’m sure if one of the other channels (probably Foxtel) sees a commercial value, they will buy the rights.

    Overall, though, I think what you are seeing is a fairly steep transition where people have so much content available that any one offering has to be exceptional to be worth much at all.

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