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Optus launches bid for A-League

SportKevin Perry

image source - Fairfax

Optus has confirmed it will hold talks with the FFA in a bid to secure broadcast rights for the A-League.

Negotiations have commenced for the next A-League rights deal with Fox Sports remaining the front-runner to hold onto the domestic competition. However Optus has shown a willingness to invest significant funds into the round ball game despite relatively low ratings.

Optus is keen to acquire the domestic competition  as it seeks to become 'the home for football', the telco already holds the rights for the English Premier League and upcoming World Cup tournament's.

In an interview published today by Fairfax Media, Optus CEO, Allen Lew stated: 

"We're looking at it seriously," "If it makes sense and it adds value to what we are providing football fans, at a commercial deal that we feel is fair, then we will see how we can bring it across. But, it's early days and let's see what happens."

It will be a challenging negotiation for the FFA, while the lion-share of investment will likely come from Fox Sports or Optus, the federation will also be looking to find a commercial free-to-air partner for the A-League in the new rights deal.

The current broadcast deal has been a disaster for the code with ratings remaining flat due to games being hidden away on SBS2. Meanwhile crickets Big Bash League has dominated audiences, the AFL is moving into February with a new women's League, and Netball Australia is poised to this week announce a new rights deal with the Nine Network that will see it recieve dramatically more Free-to-air exposure, including Saturday nights.

This website understands the FFA is hoping to get a minimum of two A-League games per week simulcast on FTA television, with a marquee match to be scheduled for every Friday and Saturday night.

SBS, Foxtel and Fox Sports have one year remaining on a 4-year, $40 Million deal to broadcast the A-League competition. The FFA is hoping to double that figure to $80 Million in the next right deal, meaning its extremely unlikely SBS will remain a broadcaster of the competition.

Its no secret that SBS has previously wanted to exit from its current A-League broadcast deal, the broadcast was moved to SBS’s secondary channel due to low ratings and Management spent much of 2014/2015 trying to off-load the rights, however with NRL and AFL media rights being negotiated at the same time, the commercial networks were unwilling to back the round ball game.

Fox Sports has the upper hand in the upcoming negotiations, the pay-tv sports broadcaster holds ‘last-bid’ rights for the A-League meaning it will have the option to match any offer Optus, or another broadcaster puts on the table.

Newly appointed Foxtel CEO Peter Tonagh will be keen to avoid the publicity backlash that his predecessor experienced after losing the EPL to Optus.  

Fox Sports CEO Patrick Delany has confirmed the importance of the A-League to his network telling Fairfax Media :

 "We have been an unfalteringly strong supporter of Australian football and specifically the A-League and that dates along way back to the time when the A-League was only a glimpse in the eye of Frank Lowy,"
"We're committed to continue to work with the FFA and the football community to build on what's happened in the last 10 years and continue to mission of making football more popular in Australia."