Media buyers dissect A-League and share how Paramount ANZ can increase viewership

After the Isuzu UTE A-League Grand Final kicked off on Saturday, airing on Channel 10, Paramount+ and 10 Play, Mumbrella spoke to Paramount ANZ's Nick Bower as well as a range of media buyers about the overall coverage of the season, and what the competition can provide for advertisers and brands moving forward.

The Isuzu UTE A-League Grand Final between Melbourne City vs. Western United took place at AAMI Park on Saturday, and kicked off at 7:45pm airing on Channel 10, Paramount+ and 10 Play, with 22,495 people in attendance. 

A total national audience of 174,000 (including metro, regional and 10 Play audiences) tuned in to watch Western United become the A-League Men champions after just three seasons in the competition, taking down Melbourne City 2-0. Compared to the 2021 Grand Final on Fox Sports (live) plus the ABC ME (delayed), Network 10’s national television broadcast audience was 34% higher.

Western United become the A-League Men champions after just three seasons in the competition, taking down Melbourne City 2-0.

Paramount ANZ’s sport sales director, Nick Bower, tells Mumbrella: “Media buyers have been really responsive this season and embraced the way Paramount does football. There has been fantastic support from our major sponsors McDonalds, Isuzu UTE, Harvey Norman, Neds, Mate and Liberty as well as the casual market throughout the season.

“Despite match rescheduling due to COVID making it more challenging for viewers to keep up with the match schedule, Paramount has grown the A-League audience significantly compared to the previous broadcaster and even doubled the audience of the last free-to-air broadcaster. We have been able to reach more Australians than ever before.”

In terms of ad sales, Bower admits that this season has reached company expectations. “We have had a strong year, commercially. What has been the most pleasing and equally as strong, has been the way we have worked with our partners to provide flexible and adaptable ad solutions during a season that has thrown its fair share of changes. We are grateful to have such great partners who have been so supportive throughout the season.”

Bower says he’s excited and looking forward to next year’s season. “We are all looking forward to next year’s season, with the hope and promise of a clean and committed match schedule. This will help us plan bigger client activations, and that’s a good thing for all.”

Zenith Sydney head of investment, Thomas Macerola, tells Mumbrella: “Ten has a track record of being able to take a format and re-energise it, drawing in viewers. We saw the transformation of the Big Bash when Ten won the broadcast rights and innovated the coverage.”

He adds: “I think Ten recognise the potential of the A-League and Australian football. However to grow the platform next season, we need to see more coverage across the weekend available to free to air audiences combined with greater investment and promotion into the platform. They need to approach the strategy long term, giving greater support on air now and investing for the future.”

Over 22,495 people were in attendance at the A-League Grand Final over the weekend.

Half Dome group business director, Ashwin Govender, admits: “It’s been a challenging year for the A-league with crowds averaging just over 5,000 versus over 13,000 at its peak during 2013-15. There was some initial hype around the change in broadcast rights over to Ten and Paramount, however the coverage to date has been somewhat underwhelming. Ten have only committed to broadcasting one game per week on its main channel which makes it hard to generate any genuine momentum.”

Initiative’s national head of partnerships, Simon Reid explains what he is most concerned about when buying spots during the A-League coverage.

“It would be easy to say audience, however that is way too simplistic,” Reid says. “As media buyers we need to assess the value equation of each spot as well as the programme content. 

“Sport is a fantastic vehicle to reach highly engaged viewers, so if an advertisers brand/messaging resonates with A-league audiences, then I have no concerns buying spots throughout broadcast (off set with higher reaching content as well of course).”

While Paramount+ is relatively new, meaning it may have a lower amount of subscribers than other SVOD platforms, the continued rate of its subscriber growth has been promising.

In October last year, the recently rebranded A-Leagues unveiled Isuzu UTE Australia (IUA) as its first official naming rights partner for the A-League men’s competition on a three year deal.

“Scale can be a concern, especially if you are paying a premium,” admits Spark Foundry Sydney head of investment, Sue-Ellen Osborn However. “However, issues around scale can be offset by the value of reaching an especially engaged soccer fan base. The people watching have specifically sought out this environment which creates opportunity for advertisers who are seeking these viewers.”

Zenith’s Macerola agrees with Osborn. “At this stage Paramount+ is still in its infancy. As we have seen with other SVOD services, content is king. Content drives subscribers and with the power of CBS behind the platform, we should see a greater breadth of quality content releases over the next few years. 

“As for concern, I don’t see any need for it at this stage. Each SVOD platform offers something different and it is just a matter of time before Paramount+ finds its feet.”

Initiative’s Reid says: “It’s a new platform and we know this takes time to build. However, I do not think that the A-league is strong enough for fans to subscribe to Paramount purely for live games.”

Half Dome’s Govender is also positive about the platform making waves in local markets. “Paramount + is the newest kid on the block in terms of streaming services backed by big pockets in the US,” he says. “They will no doubt grow, however at this stage the app seems quite clunky from a user experience perspective versus the more established apps such as Kayo.”

As for how Network 10 and Paramount+ can kick on and get more eyeballs on next season’s competition, the media buyers weigh in.

Initiative’s Reid says: “I’m not necessarily sure this can be solved purely by the broadcasters. I think the issue comes down to the quality of the league and players. International players are a draw card for audiences both at ground and broadcast viewership and retaining local talent is near impossible with the lure of overseas salaries. 

“It’s almost chicken and the egg. The league needs the broadcasters for financial backing, yet without audiences’ broadcasters are not willing to pay the huge sums paid for on other codes. Having said that, Ten only broadcasts one live match a week (on a Saturday), so with no prime time matches, TV viewership will always be low. They could consider airing more live games on linear to grow the sport, however this will come at a cost of total network audience and I’m not sure they are willing to do that just yet, but it might be a way to sell in more sponsorships.”

Spark’s Osborn says while a lot of Australians play the sport, it’s not yet translating into TV viewership or live audiences.

“There needs to be engagement at a grassroots level to encourage soccer players to become soccer fans and therefore soccer viewers.” 

She adds: “My son loves playing soccer each weekend but comes home and watches NRL – and NRL players are his sporting heroes. The creation of soccer heroes that the younger grass root players can identify with and look up to would help build up soccer as a must watch sport.”

Half Dome’s Govender notes: “It is a massive challenge that is much bigger than the broadcast itself. The league needs to drive relevance in this market. Needless to say, Australia is a highly competitive sporting landscape with AFL, NRL, and cricket dominating ratings throughout the year.:

He adds: “From a football perspective, interest has always been in the English Premier League which has attracted the best Australian players. In years gone by, the A-league has managed to attract big internationals such as Berisha, Del Piero, and David Villa. It appears there is a lack of genuine star power in the league in 2022.”

The media buyers were later asked if the A-League’s ratings might stifle Paramount ANZ’s attempts to lure the AFL away from Seven and Foxtel.

Zenith’s Macerola admits: “I do not think the ratings will stifle Ten/Paramount’s opportunity to lure the AFL away from Network Seven and Foxtel. Audiences follow content, especially sporting content. As we saw in previous years with the change of broadcast rights for the cricket, audiences will tune in and watch what they love regardless of who holds the broadcast rights. I think whenever there is a re-negotiation of broadcast rights on the table, they will want to see who has the strongest commitment in not only growing viewership but the entire code.”

Initiative’s Reid tells Mumbrella he thinks the network will always have a seat at the negotiation table given their financial backing, while Spark’s Osborn says: “Ten have held the AFL rights in the past from 2002-2006 and there is no reason they can’t do it again.

“With Paramount backing them they have much more financial firepower and a completely different proposition. Of course the current Seven/Foxtel/AFL alliance is a huge proposition to contend with, it will not be an easy win for Paramount.”


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