Barnet v Wealdstone.
Not the first fixture that would come to mind when you think of footballs most historic games.
But in October of 1946, a clash between the two English sides became the very first game of association football to be broadcast live on the BBC.
Things have come a long way since then, the dawn of the Premier League and the arrival of Rupert Murdoch’s Sky arguably changing the game forever, for better or worse.
The exorbitant amounts of money splashed to secure the rights to broadcast football’s hottest properties catch all the headlines, and the commercialisation of these rights have become the single biggest source of income for the majority of clubs around the world.
But how much do we really know about what goes in to bringing the beautiful game to our television screens?
Tom Read, Current VP, Strategy & Partnerships at revolutionary sports broadcast tech company Spalk, joined Kick360 to give an insight in to what exactly goes on in the big money business of broadcast rights.
“There’s a lot of work that goes on in the background.” Says Read.
“It’s not as easy as a pie in the sky idea of ‘oh yeah, that would be a good rights deal for us to have.’
“It depends on what the strategy of the business is, but generally, someone who is looking to acquire rights will be looking to either make money off that through advertising or through subscriptions.”
To best understand how they can do that, broadcasters will conduct a lot of market research and number crunching to understand exactly what they need to do, and who they need to target, if they are to ensure a return on investment.
“If you’re a free-to-air broadcaster you’ll be doing a lot of work on what the audience is going to look like, and how you’re going to make your money back on that investment.
“If you’re a subscription based platform, you’ll running similar numbers to find out how many subscribers you are going to get for that particular broadcast and how you will make back your investment through that.
“So there’s a lot of work that goes in to coming up with a fair number. Then depending on what the process is, whether it’s bidding or a straight up negotiation, you’ll go in with that number and see how you wind up.”
Read’s decade long career has seen him work for some of the biggest names in broadcasting, including Disney, DAZN and Fox.
It was during his time with Foxtel, and latterly Fox Sports, that Read moved in to the world of content acquisition, helping the broadcaster to secure and maintaining sports channel partnerships with some of the worlds biggest properties like Bein Sports, Eurosport and ESPN, as well as club channels like MUTV and Chelsea TV.
Working across the globe has given the Aussie a fascinating insight in to how business is conducted in different markets.
“If you look at Australia now as an example of a market, it was only a few years ago that there was no competition in the market for rights. Because of that, the top tier sports like AFLs, NRLs and crickets of the world were getting decent money for their rights, and growing year on year, getting over a billion dollars in their contracts, but that meant the second and third tier sports were getting squeezed out of their deserved incomes for their audiences.
“They had to go on with the lack of competition and had to work with the broadcasters that were around but they weren’t getting value for money from that.”
Read feels the rise of on-demand viewing and an increase in the emergence of streaming services in recent years have moved the goalposts.
“With what we’ve seen in the last few years, streaming services becoming more and more prevalent, the internet becoming a lot better in Australia and the cost of actually becoming a broadcaster in Australia, like Channel 10 setting up Paramount Plus now… 10 years ago if they wanted to set up a subscription service, they would have had to buy a whole bunch of hardware, create a cable channel… it would have cost them millions and millions more dollars to do to set up a subscription service than it does now.
“The lower cost of entry means we are going to see a lot more competition. Gone are the days of a one stop shop. Media companies are going to become much more well rounded. In the likes of Australia, the likes of Nine Media Group, theses big companies that have a whole bunch of media assets, and use their free-to-air channels to push to their subscription services like Stan.
“With more competition, the competition for the rights for those tier two, tier three sports is going to be a lot more too and they’ll be able to get a lot closer to what they’re worth.”
The emergence of these new players to the game could not have come at a better time for football in Australia.
“If Stan and Paramount Plus didn’t come in to the market, the A-League were in real trouble, with not really having any additional options. Having these two new players created significant competition in the market and allowed them to get their value.”
While many fans feel the quality and support dropped over the years, it cannot be overstated how important the investment and backing of a major player like Fox was in getting the A-League off the ground.
“FoxSports did an amazing job growing the A-League to where it is now. If you look at where football in Australia was in 2005 and where it is now, it continues to grow, the league continues to bring in new players and new stories, and for the level of where the league is…It’s a great property.
However, Read, like many of us, is excited to see what a new broadcaster can do to freshen things up and, hopefully, reignite the passion and interest for the domestic game in Australia.
“I think for the A-League, this new deal with Paramount Plus is just awesome for them, regardless of what the price is for it.
“The fact that they’re now the marquee sport for a broadcaster for their time of the year, that they don’t have to compete against cricket at Fox or for share of time on their magazine shows, [is huge].
“They will have the full force of Paramount and Channel 10 to promote their broadcast, because they’re now the number one show in town on that network. For them that’s the most valuable thing they’re getting out of it. Outside of the revenue they are going to receive, they’re going to have an entire media company putting their full force behind them.
“It’s going to be exciting to see what Paramount and 10 are going to be able to do with it moving forward.”