A-League a '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.”

Once known as the spiritual home of football after a 35-year history of broadcasting football, SBS was locked out of broadcasting the A-League and Socceroos after Foxtel won exclusive rights in 2005.

In 2012 the broadcaster signed a joint deal with Foxtel for four years and once again aired Australian football.

But since that time football has had a tumultuous existence on SBS. 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.”

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.”

With Optus winning the English Premier TV rights for the next three years much speculation has been made about what the company plans to do with those rights. 

SBS did not want to comment on any future negotiations regarding Optus’ decision to buy the EPL rights or whether SBS was interested in being involved in the future.

But an SBS spokesperson reiterated the stations commitment to the current A-League broadcast deal.

“SBS has been instrumental in building the profile of football in Australia over 35 years,” the spokesperson said.

“Football aligns with SBS’s Charter, by helping to unite Australia’s diverse multicultural communities. SBS has the exclusive rights to the World Cup until 2022, the Friday night A-League games until 2016-17 and the exclusive free-to-air broadcast rights for the next three seasons of the UEFA Champions League (UCL) in an agreement with beIN Sport.”

But the spokesperson did not divulge if SBS was willing to make a greater investment if Optus created a bidding war for the rights.

 “SBS continues to invest its modest resources into content which delivers on the SBS Charter and considers opportunities where appropriate and which fit with our objectives,” the spokesperson said.

Con Stamocostas is an Australian football writer. Click here to see more of his work and check out the latest episode of his A-League Snobcast with co-host Rob Toddler.