Selling out your sport
Russell Degnan

It never ceases to amaze me that sporting administrators routinely choose the highest bidder when selling television rights. Money is no doubt important, as it is one of the major sources of revenue, but is not the only thing by any means.

This week, the English Premier League did a deal with Fox Sports that sees SBS lose both the game per week and the highlights package. But television is more than revenue, it is advertising, and in the case of free-to-air, it is good advertising (even on SBS). If the overall interest in the Premier League drops because of a lack of coverage - and it almost certainly will - how much will those teams lose in merchandise sales?

It does however give Soccer Australia an opportunity - when they have a competition that is. They are another organisation that sold their rights, to channel Seven, for piddling coverage, and no real commitment. The NSL lost coverage on SBS, in favour of a very late night highlights package. It continued to flounder along until its mercy killing, but hopefully the lesson has been learnt. What sports - particularly marginal ones in Australia like soccer and basketball - need is coverage first and foremost. Other advertisers would follow if you locked a major network into prime-time coverage, but as the NBL has learnt (even as netball is jumping ahead on the ABC), noone is interested in an invisible game.

But, back to the Premier League. Australian's have no special attachment to the English game. It could well be usurped by whatever SBS find as an alternative, be it the Serie A or the Primera Liga. And it will serve them right.

Culture 28th August, 2004 23:16:31   [#]