New start for A-League heralds the end of Foxtel

The television rights for the A-League have been awarded to Channel 10 and its owner’s ViacomCBS new streaming service Paramount+. The five year deal is worth $200m and includes an option for a three-year extension. The deal will see one game every week from the A-League and W-League shown on free-to-air tv with the remaining games shown on the Paramount+ streaming service.

The deal offers to opportunity for a new start for the A-League in its quest to reach the hearts and minds of the general public. After a promising start under Foxtel in the early years of the A-League, that relationship was brought to its knees by the decision of Foxtel and News Corporation to refocus away from Football. Nowhere has this been more obvious than in South Australia. In the past 18 months, the most popular sport on this planet has suddenly disappeared from the pages of the Adelaide Advertiser in what is a clear anti-football strategy being run by the newspaper which is owned by the majority owner of Foxtel. News Corporation has invested heavily in AFL through Foxtel, overpaying for the rights, and is using all of its available platforms to drive Joe and Joan Public towards its high cost content.

The Adelaide Advertiser runs double figured numbers of stories on AFL every day and commonly there is not a single Football article. Events such as school AFL games, junior swimming carnivals and junior netball get much more coverage than Football in a week when the Champions League was won and the A-League is in its final week before the final series. Today there are 18 articles on AFL on the Adelaide Advertiser front page on the internet including 14 seperate AFL images and not a single mention of Football. Junior netball, tennis and cricket, which is out of season, all get a mention. Commonly the only way for Football to get a run is when there is a negative story.

But football followers in South Australia have long been accustomed to the sporting bigotry that flows through the media in South Australia. Most football followers have pivoted away from the Adelaide Advertiser which is fast heading in the same direction as another former South Australian icon – Holden. Like Holden, the Adelaide Advertiser and its owners from a long way away, News Corporation, are pushing their own agenda onto their customers rather than providing their customers with what they want. Instead of investing in the business, they are in the continuous spiral of reducing the quality of their product in order to reduce their costs which just turns away more customers. It is a strategy that leads to failure.

The same scenario is playing out with Foxtel. Whilst the loss of the A-League in itself will not bring about the demise of Foxtel, it is symbolic of the downward spiral underway at Foxtel which will lead to its eventual demise. Foxtel is old technology. Foxtel is expensive. It has high fixed costs to deliver it content on its own unique infrastructure which it has to pay for whilst streaming businesses can leverage off existing infrastructure that the customer pays for.

What brought people to Foxtel in the first place was access to exclusive content that could not be obtained on free to air television such as the English Premier League. But a lot of exclusivity on content has been given away or lost as the owners of Foxtel sought to cut costs to increase profits. As the quality of the product started to decline, customer numbers began to decline and the downward spiral of further cuts to the quality of the product to reduce costs is well underway. The English Premier League is gone. Champions League is gone. A-League is on its way. Game of Thrones has finished. More movies can be purchased on other streaming platforms. All the sport content is available on Kayo at half the cost. Many of the former exclusive series and channels are now available on other platforms. So recently negotiating exclusive rights to the CNN channel is not going to save Foxtel just as importing low quality cheap cars and rebadging them was going to save Holden. Foxtel needed to invest in giving its customers what they want if it was to survive rather than trying to cut its way to survival.

Streaming is here now. It is the new avenue into the loungerooms of the general public. It will revolutionise the television industry. Customers will be in control of what content they want to see rather than being forced to watch the content that is dictated to them. Much like the internet revolutionised the flow of news content away from newspapers, streaming will revolutionise the flow of television content.

The younger generations are very tech savy. The vast majority of them will have played football. They will use streaming technology to bypass the agendas of the old school Australian media sporting bigots and will watch what they want to watch, not what someone tells them they should watch.

Its no coincidence that those media businesses investing in Football in Australia are all foreign owned. Optus. Be-InSports. Viacom-CBS. Plus shortly – Amazon Prime. They are not influenced by the sporting bigotry that has historically flowed through the Australian media. They understand the popularity of the world game with customers and they understand the changes that are coming to the media landscape.

Undoubtedly Foxtel will try to pivot to streaming at some stage. But it will be too late and Foxtel will go the way of Holden. It might be a new beginning for the A-League . But for Foxtel its the beginning of the end with the Advertiser not too far behind.

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