A-League hit by ‘disappointing’ viewing figures on Fox

Greg O’Rourke, chief executive of Australia’s A-League, has admitted that audience ratings on pay-television broadcaster Fox Sports since the season’s resumption have been “disappointing”, with clubs set to assume some pre- and post-match coverage themselves to boost engagement.

Foxtel last month reached an agreement with Football Federation Australia (FFA) to cover the remainder of the 2019-20 season and the 2020-21 campaign in a deal worth a reported A$32m (€19.8m/$22.9m).

It had previously been reported that Foxtel had terminated its rights contract with the FFA amid ongoing talks over a revised deal. It was claimed that Fox Sports, a Foxtel subsidiary, had used a force majeure clause to end its A$57m-per-year deal with the FFA, which had another three seasons remaining.

A short-term deal was ultimately reached ahead of the resumption of the A-League season on July 16, with the A$32m fee, reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, in line with other renegotiated deals accepted by other sporting codes.

Ratings for Fox’s A-League coverage since the restart have been below-par, with only 12,000 fans tuning into Sydney FC vs Wellington Phoenix last Friday and 9,000 watching Perth Glory vs Central Coast Mariners, according to figures from OzTam, Australia’s official television audience measurement.

With the NRL and AFL having recently resumed their seasons, the A-League has fallen down the pecking order among sports fans. O’Rourke has conceded that the Fox viewing figures are underwhelming, although OzTam’s figures do not include audiences on the Kayo Sports and My Football Live streaming services.

He told the Herald: “The Fox numbers are important and they’re disappointing, I’m not going to shy away from that.

“We would prefer it to be higher so people weren’t talking so much about metrics and more about the game. But whilst the Fox broadcast is the carrier of the product, it’s viewed many different ways.

“We’re pushing people to watch it on Kayo and My Football Live because we know we’re out of season, and some people would have probably turned the [Foxtel] box off who were football lovers.”

Fox Sports has scaled back its A-League production since signing its new deal with the FFA and Sydney FC is among the clubs seeking to boost engagement ahead of matches.

The club is streaming pre-match build-up on social media in the half an hour leading up to kick-off and the Herald noted that other teams are likely to explore similar initiatives.