SBS switches A-League to main channel after pressure from football authorities

SBS 2SBS will switch its live Friday night A-League football from SBS Two to SBS One following pressure from Football Federation Australia (FFA) to move coverage to the public broadcaster’s main channel.

It is understood SBS has been lobbied by football authorities who were disappointed that SBS had elected to broadcast its one weekly live match last season on its digital multi channel.

While audiences were regarded as reasonably strong, shifting the coverage to SBS One is expected to deliver a ratings boost and further elevate the game in Australia, on the back of strong ratings for the FIFA World Cup in June and July.

500px-FootballFederationAustralia_logo-300x300The FFA told Mumbrella it believed the sport deserved to be taken to a wider audience and confirmed it had held talks with the broadcaster.

“FFA has discussed this matter with SBS since the original decision to start the coverage on SBS 2 last season, and we’re delighted the network has given the game a vote of confidence by broadcasting the A-League on the primary channel in Season 10,” FFA chief operating officer John Kelly said.

“SBS has the prerogative to broadcast the A-League on the channel they think is the best fit, but we believe the appetite for the game is such that live A-League football deserves to be on SBS One and we commend SBS for this initiative. We are in a golden age of football in Australia and SBS has recognised the moment with this decision.”

SBS, which is entering the second of a four year deal to broadcast one live match each round, defended its decision to air games on SBS Two, arguing it “allowed the game to bed in without the pressure of higher ratings expectations seen on the primary channel”.

SBS director of sport Ken Shipp said it was no secret that FFA wanted the A-League on One but denied it put pressure on the broadcaster.

“Pressure is not the right word. Encouragement would be the better word,” he told Mumbrella. “The reality was it was me who initiated discussions about moving the product to One at the end of last  season, even before the World Cup. I went to them.”

Audiences for the code, which had been broadcast solely on Fox Sports before last season, rose 50 per cent last year according to the FFA. The new season kicks off on October 10.

SBS managing director Michael Ebeid said the growing appetite for football, fuelled by the World Cup in Brazil, meant taking the sport to a wider audience made sense.

“Moving the Hyundai A-League to SBS One capitalises on our momentum from the World Cup and signals our increased commitment to and confidence in growing this great game which unites communities across so many cultures,” he said.

Observers expressed surprise at the move to air games on SBS Two as the broadcaster’s return on investment would not have been so high on its secondary channel.

SBS, Foxtel and Fox Sports are believed to have paid $40m between them for the four-year A-League rights deal, which ends after the 2016/2017 season.

Steve Jones


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