FFA warned split subscription rights a turn-off for new fans

Mumbrella Marketing & Advertising Editor, Simon Canning, says the new Optus EPL broadcast arrangement means the FFA faces the challenge of fragmented local and international competitions when the next TV deal is negotiated.

From next season Australian football fans will have to pay for two different subscriptions services if they want to get their full fix of the A-League, Socceroos and English Premier League.

With the EPL having moved from Foxtel to Optus for the next three years, Canning says FFA will need to strike a balance between existing football supporters and the general sports fan.

He said it was vital for the A-League to continue to grow the fanbase.

"Free-to-air deal is crucial to that still," Canning added. 

"Until such time as we see a tipping of the balance, where the majority of Australians are getting most of its information through a broadband reception rather than an aerial - it’s still that shopwindow.

"It’s crucial for the FFA to try and find a way to have some exposure for the A-League and the Socceroos on a free-to-air (FTA) station.

“When you start splitting the local leagues up with the international leagues then it becomes problematic for the FFA.

"If you've got to pay to see the Socceroos playing in international tournaments and see the A-League on Foxtel and then you have to pay a secondary subscription to see the EPL on the Optus system - you are forcing the committed fans of the sport to make a choice.

“You make it very hard for casual fans to gain entry.”

And in terms of the next football deal Canning believes that finding a place for football on mainstream FTA TV should be the goal for the FFA.

He added: “It is an enormous audience you can engage in and that’s where you get to pick up your casual viewer.

“That’s where you have somebody hopping through channels, that’s where you can get the publicity in mainstream publications, like News Corp publications and Fairfax publications, writing and building up the game.

“If you don’t have access to that it just makes it so much more difficult to sell into new markets.”

Regarding the A-League and Socceroos broadcast rights that come up for renewal next year, Optus said that it was not ruling out a potential bid.

“If we think it’s going to create a better experience for our customers we will consider it,” a spokesperson for the telco said.

“We look at a range of content opportunities whether it’s sport or other content opportunitie. Our interest will be determined by the value of the property and what it can bring to the Optus brand and our customers.”

Meanwhile SBS said that it would be hoping to renew the FTA rights for the Socceroos and A-League in the next round of bidding.

“We’ll definitely look at it when the negotiation rounds come up because it would be good for us to retain it,” an SBS spokesperson said.