Television ratings for the first two rounds of the new A-League season are down significantly compared with the previous year and one leading media analyst has described the outlook as grim.
According to figures from Fusion Strategy & Essence Media, audience figures for SBS have dropped 63% while those for Fox Sports are said to have slipped almost 25% from a reported average 88k after round two in 2014 to a claimed average of 61k average after round two in 2015.
In round one on pay TV, Western Sydney vs Brisbane Roar was watched by 73,000 viewers, Central Coast vs Perth received 30,000, Sydney FC vs Melbourne City 69,000 and Wellington vs Newcastle 43,000. Adelaide against Melbourne Victory was watched by 85,000 on Fox Sports and 78,000 on SBS2.
In round two the Melbourne derby received 84,000 viewers, Brisbane Roar vs Central Coast 61,000, Perth vs Wellington 53,000 and Newcastle vs Sydney FC 51,000. Adelaide against Western Sydney recorded an audience of 64,000 on pay TV and 68,000 on free-to-air.
The average TV audience for each game in round one was 81,000 and round two was 81,000, compared with averages of 142,000 and 145,000 for the corresponding year.
Steve Allen, CEO of Fusion Strategy & Essence Media, told FourFourTwo he was “surprised the fall has been so great” and pointed to the move of Friday night A-League coverage from SBS’ main channel to SBS2.
“Surprised especially of Fox Sports also dropping,” he said.
“This is more a reflection of marquee players at commencement of season last year. So it will likely improve, but we still think this is going to be a really poor year for A-League TV audiences, because of SBS2.
“The key is what has happened in the relationship between the A-League and SBS. Something pretty basic has destroyed the relationship.”
Allen believes free-to-air ratings for the A-League would improve, and potentially double, if the Friday game each round was broadcast on SBS’ main channel.
“Whilst the viewing public are becoming more accustomed to digital channel viewing, there is in our estimation a 20-30% audience drop off for programme shift to one of these channels,” he said.
“However we can see in the case of SBS2 and the A-League it is greater than this. We guess what impacts lower viewership is, unfamiliarity, habit, TV capability, and where to find these channels.”
Allen said part of the explanation of the audience loss was the lack of overseas marquee players this year.