Thursday, March 19, 2009

Australian Football Broadcasting Update

It’s been about 8 months since I finished my (mammoth) series of blogs regarding TV Coverage of football in Australia. I looked at football on Free-to-Air Television, then wrote about football on Subscription Television, and finally looked at the future of football on Australian TV. This will just be an update on the situation, there have been a few interesting developments since my last blog.

Pay TV:

Let me talk about Pay-TV first. While there haven’t been a lot of improvements made to the amount of football coverage we get lately, there have been a few things worth noting.

Fox Sports:

Fox Sports have pushed ahead with their High Definition football coverage this season, many A-league games have been shown in HD, as well as all Socceroos games and heaps of games from England. I haven’t got access to Fox Sports HD myself, but from all reports the quality has been very good.

Recently Fox have shown a bit more Asian football, including every one of the final round of Asian World Cup qualifiers. Unfortunately though, many of these games have been shown on delay, and viewers choice hasn’t been utilized.

One of the problems for Fox, when it comes to Asian football, has been finding commentators and producing the coverage. Fox prefers to provide it’s own commentators for games, which is fine, but the problem with this is that they have been reluctant to broadcast games unless they feel that it is worth doing commentary and doing good coverage.

The Asian Champions league, which is going on currently, is a good example. Fox would gladly broadcast all games from the Champions league, if it was as simple as just putting them on TV. But it would be very hard for them to provide commentary and to produce every one of these games. As I’ve said previously, the solution to this is obvious – they need to share the load with other Asian Broadcasters. Perhaps the AFC should spearhead this, but if the recourses of Fox, Star Sports, and other English Language Asian networks were combined, you could have good quality coverage of all games – and viewers all over Asia (and the World) could benefit.

Still on the topic of Asian football, I received a bit of an exclusive yesterday when I had confirmation from Fox Sports that the J-league will be shown on Fox this year. At this stage it will likely just be a highlights show, but at least it’s something. Expect to see this starting up in the next couple of weeks.

It would be awesome to see live coverage of the J-league one day, especially as games are shown at a perfect time for Australian viewers, and it would be a perfect competition to fill the void left by the lack of A-league during Winter. Again, though, it’s hard for Fox to commit to broadcasting the J-league live, as they would likely have to produce and do commentary for the games themselves (unless they could use the coverage that Eurosport do in England).

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(Incidentally, I’ve seen a few J-league games online this season – it really is a high quality league, and great to watch – I recommend checking it out if you have a good internet connection)

Setanta:

Setanta Sports still suffers from many of the problems that I talked about last year. They have heaps of rights, and plenty of good coverage, but no where near enough airtime to show live matches. One recent edition to Setanta’s coverage is the Russian Premier League. I quite like that they are showing this, as it’s one league that is well suited to Australian viewers, with games on a bit earlier than other European leagues. They desperately need more channels, or maybe some viewers choice system though.

Other:

I talked last year about the possibility of new channels coming to Foxtel, which could improve football coverage. While this has not happened yet, I have heard strong rumours that 3 new sports channels will be available on Foxtel before the end of the year, most likely from October 1st. I’m confident that Eurosport will be one of these channels, while Sky Sports News might be another. It also leaves the door open for that Fox Sports football channel, which is still a possibility.

(These channels will be just a few of the 20 channels that will be launched before the end of the year, also expect to see Foxtel convert all it’s subscribers to the Foxtel IQ. There should be a few other improvements as well)

FTA:

Unfortunately there isn’t a lot to report regarding football on Australian FTA TV at the moment. Most football coverage is limited to SBS, who continue their dedication to the World Game.

SBS:

They did try something different recently, introducing an extra show on Tuesday nights. The concept of “Extra Time” was very solid – a recap of the weekend’s football, with all the goals from the EPL and the A-league. Unfortunately making the show only half and hour long, and putting it at 6pm meant it was doomed to failure. SBS has said that it will be back at some point, hopefully they put it on Monday nights – maybe at 9:30 – and let it go a bit longer, so that all the big European leagues can be looked at in detail.

One thing that was fairly significant late last year for SBS was the FIFA Club World Cup. Firstly, it was the first time SBS had ever shown games involving an A-league team. Their coverage was solid, and the ratings were good. It was also significant because, for the first time, SBS used their extra digital channel to show football. They had Adelaide’s 5th/6th placed playoff as well as the Gamba v Manchester Semi-final exclusively on their digital channel. Hopefully they use this channel again for their coverage of the Confederations Cup and FIFA Under 20 World Cup later this year.

The other regular football that we see on SBS is the UEFA Champions league. We still do not know, however, if SBS will have the rights to this competition beyond this year, but hopefully they will, as there really isn’t enough football on FTA TV at the moment.

ABC:

It was good to see a FTA channel other than SBS getting in on the football action this Summer. ABC did a good job covering the W-league, and followed it up with coverage of two Matildas games early this year. Considering the timeslot and the quality of the football, the ratings were very good. Hopefully the ABC might start broadcasting other womens/youth football in the future – this was something I mentioned as part of my ‘ideal scenario’ in a previous blog.

Other:

You can expect to see some of the other commercial broadcasters taking football more seriously when the A-league/Socceroos TV rights expire in a few years, but for now these channels seem very reluctant to broadcast any football whatsoever.

One thing that might change this is Channel 10’s introduction of a 24hr sports channel, One HD. Now the merits of this channel are a matter for another blog, but surely with a dedicated sports channel on FTA some football will be shown? You’d think that, wouldn’t you?

Ten has bought rights to various sports events from around the world, although mainly from North America. They have been promoting their channel as '”full of sports from all corners of the globe”. It seems a bit silly that they would say this, and then not broadcast any amount of the World’s most popular game. In fairness, they aren’t showing any rugby either, maybe it is not football that they are reluctant to broadcast, but anything that might be a serious threat to AFL.

For the immediate future, it looks like football fans will still have to rely on pay-TV if they want to watch any serious amount of football. I do hope that changes (at least to some degree) one day.

Matt

5 comments:

pasta17 said...

Great website mate, well done. I just stumbled upon it randomly. Very insightful article. I'm currently weighing up my TV football options, and in doing so I think im about to enter the world of Foxtel for the first time!,.. ecause as you say it's really the only genuine source of football at the moment unfortunately.

Can you possibly elaborate on the new Foxtel Sports channel rumors???...cheers

Matt Winter said...

Hey, and thanks.

For a year or more now, Foxtel have been planning the launch of a new satellite, which will allow them to broadcast more channels. They have been somewhat limited during the past 12 months, and although we have seen a couple of new channels, there isn't a lot of bandwidth left on their satellite.

The launch date for the new satellite seems to keep getting pushed back, but it should be operational before the end of the year. Foxtel have promised 20 new channels will be launched when this happens - and I've heard there will be (at least) 3 new sports channels.

One of these channels will reportedly be a 'classic' sports channel, which I think is a stupid idea. While I can certainly understand while watching classic sporting contests would be quite enjoyable, a whole channel dedicated to this stuff is quite unnecessary. There is plenty of room on the regular Fox Sports channels, during the week there aren't huge amounts of live sport anyway - classic sport seems like great 'filler content'.

Hard to guess what the other channels will be, I'm hoping for Eurosport and Sky Sports News.

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