Paramount Plus must pounce on EPL rights in Australia

ViacomCBS have begun broadcasting Australian football content in the past several weeks across the 10 Network and its free streaming platform 10 play, in the opening stages of the company’s $300 million investment deal into the game.

The majority of content, such as Socceroos, Matildas, A-League and W-League matches, will eventually be broadcast on the company’s SVOD service Paramount Plus in the coming months.

A revamped presentation of the game will be implemented across the new TV deal, as highlighted by the recent announcement that the Saturday night A-League broadcast shown on Channel 10 will also feature live crosses and a ‘goal rush’ type innovation involving the other simultaneous match, something which is currently seen in top league broadcasts around the world.

Fresh ideas such as this are welcomed, but ViacomCBS may need to look at further options to build rapport with fans of the round ball game in Australia.

One of those opportunities they should pursue, and strongly, is looking to secure the EPL rights off Optus Sport.

Optus Sport have held the rights since 2016, after beating out Foxtel at the time.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, English Premier League officials have begun talks with local media companies in regards to the broadcast rights to one of the world’s biggest sporting competitions.

Optus Sport’s existing deal ends at the conclusion of this season, with a blind auction in November set to decide who will show the league in the coming seasons.

ViacomCBS’s Paramount Plus is considered to be one of four candidates who are reportedly in the running to land the EPL broadcast rights, alongside current rights holders Optus Sport, Amazon Prime and Stan Sport.

The rights are expected to cost as much as $80 million a year, but that figure may be higher if there is a strong competitive process for them, which looks likely.

If the EPL was to be secured and shown on Paramount Plus, there would be significant benefits across the board for ViacomCBS and also for football in Australia.

Having both the EPL and A-League on the same service would place Paramount Plus as a must have service for the large majority of football fans in Australia.

The acquisition of the EPL would add a huge amount of value to Paramount Plus as a streaming product and bring over those fans who would not commit to the service for just A-League and W-League matches.

Their subscriber numbers would grow substantially, and a free-to-air EPL game on Channel 10 may be a strategic possibility, to draw even more people to sign up for the subscription service.

Alongside the original entertainment programming that they have on their service, Paramount Plus with the EPL and A-League rights, will go close to rivalling the bigger streaming platforms such as Netflix and Stan.

For Australian football, having both leagues together in the one place would mirror similar benefits the A-League had on Fox Sports when they also showcased live EPL broadcasts.

Most Australian football fans will remember Matchday Saturday on Fox Sports with great fondness, where A-League matches would precede EPL matches in what was a feast for football fans every week, all in one place.

The A-League peaked in popularity around that timeframe, and it’s plausible that a larger quantity of fans tuned into the local domestic competition before they would also watch EPL matches later in the night.

Administrators from the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) will be hoping a sense of deja vu occurs again, on a different platform this time around.

Packaging up the two leagues would provide cross promotional possibilities to continue to lift the profile of the A-League and may eventually convince fans of overseas clubs to also support a local team.

Turning general fans of football into A-League or W-League supporters is something that the APL have noted they are focusing on in the years to come, after unbundling from the FA.

Utilizing the advantages of having the Premier League rights on the same service may fast track those outcomes, but that is dependant on the willingness and commercial factors which decide ViacomCBS’s next moves.

However, for growth prospects in the local game and also in their own Paramount Plus streaming service, ViacomCBS may find this opportunity too good to refuse.

 

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Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

A-League clubs to be given only $530k in funding for next season

The Australian Professional Leagues (APL) have confirmed the annual grants distributed to A-League clubs will be slashed close to 75 per cent for the upcoming 2024/25 season.

After an APL board meeting, clubs were informed that next year’s distribution would total to just $530,000, from $2 million the season before.

The A-League Men minimum spending floor is $2.25 million with a salary cap limit of $2.6 million.

For wealthier clubs such as Melbourne City, they would be able to cover the remaining costs to reach the minimum spending floor. However, this would leave smaller clubs in the A-League in a much more complex financial position.

Back in 2018, before separating from Football Australia, the annual club distribution was around $3.6 million.

APL Chair Stephen Conroy released a statement concerning the significant financial cuts.

“The decision, which has been under discussion with league and Board representatives over the past few months, aligns with the Board’s commercial review of the A-Leagues since the original three-year strategy came to an end,” Conroy said via the A-Leagues website.

“We are committed to right-sizing the A-Leagues which is why we’ve been focused on cutting costs across the leagues, growing our core football product and uniting the football pyramid to support the growth of our game.

“The Board, the Leagues and the Clubs are committed to continuing to deliver the best football possible. We have our eye firmly on the future. Our core metrics are positive, with three years of growth, which will position the league for revenue growth in the future.”

These recent deductions raise many questions about how the APL and A-Leagues ended up in this financial conundrum and where has their money gone over the last couple of years?

One of the main reasons the APL was forced to make these financial cuts was due to overspending on its website, KEEPUP.

Launched in 2021 during the peak of COVID, the former APL CEO Danny Townsend said the cost to set up the league’s digital content production arm was estimated to be around $30 million. However, the site was not popular with the fans who criticised the app and website for not solely focusing on Australian football.

Despite showing potential, the APL went overboard very early and now has to deal with the consequences of it.

Another key event that has contributed to the recent financial issues dates back to December 2022, where the league signed a controversial deal with Destination NSW to host the A-Leagues Grand Finals in Sydney regardless of which teams qualified. The deal – which was worth an estimated eight-figure sum – received a lot of backlash from fans leading to protests such as the infamous pitch invasion during the Melbourne Derby.

Even former Adelaide United player and Socceroo Craig Goodwin, who was involved in the promotional video for Destination NSW and the A-League Grand Finals, posted a tweet saying he did not support the partnership. However, the league eventually turned their back on the deal after just one season.

The A-Leagues has also struggled to gain revenue from its current TV-rights deal with Paramount+ and Network 10 due to the numerous targets that the A-Leagues must meet to guarantee funding from their broadcast partner. The initial deal which was signed before the 2021/22 A-Leagues season was worth $200 million over five years.

After one season these goals were not met, it led to the Destination NSW deal. Also the decrease in subscribers due to issues with Paramount+, such as the inability to pause and rewind as well as significant streaming issues, combined with the lack of popularity and publicity of the league resulted in the APL only taking $5 million from the deal last season.

With broadcasting deals being such an integral aspect of generating income in the footballing world, the fact the APL only received such a small sum from a deal where they could have received much more is a big reason for their financial difficulties.

Despite the APL chair Stephen Conroy claiming the reductions in central distribution has come as no shock to clubs, this is a worrying time for the A-Leagues. The APL will need to find quick and responsible solutions to combat their financial difficulties if they want the leagues to continue to be operational and have some sort of future to expand and grow.

Joe Montemurro’s move to Lyon showcases elite coaching talent from Australia

Joe Montemurro has become the first non-French coach to take over Olympique Lyon Women’s team in their 20-year history after a two-year deal was struck with the legendary Australian coach.

The former Juventus and Arsenal head coach takes over the reins from Sonia Bompastor who left at the end of the 2023-24 season to manage WSL club Chelsea.

Montemurro’s resume in the women’s game is truly unmatched, leading Juventus to five trophies over a three year stretch including a treble in his maiden season. Before that he had a revolutionary coaching spell at WSL giants Arsenal, with whom he claimed the 2018 League Cup and the Women’s Super League the following year.

Montemurro is just another of many top Australian coaches produced from home soil, with his youth squads and A-League Women’s experience in Melbourne shaping the genius he has become today.

However, a hot topic in the Australian coaching community has been the lack of opportunities abroad for many local coaches whether it be due to the lack of pathways up the ranks or the AFC/UEFA licencing issue that has locked out managers from going abroad.

In a country that has produced plenty of elite manager talent, there are 14 managers in head coaching roles abroad, with only four of those in Europe (Oxtoby, Postecoglou, Montemurro, and Wehrman). It’s simply not enough.

Names like Jeff Hopkins and Ante Juric, who have plied their trade in Australian women’s football with many titles each are left to ponder the opportunity of coaching abroad without their UEFA licence acquired.

Both Montemurro and Oxtoby in particular have been pioneers in the women’s game regarding the seamless transition from Australia to European success, and the consistent successes of the former will surely legitimise women’s football more in this country and increase opportunities for the next generation of coaches who start locally and experience early success.

With this move, Montemurro also unfortunately rules himself out of the coveted Matildas manager position that he was certainly one of the leading contenders for. It was a story of poor timing with Australia’s best ever women’s football coach left to wait too long for Gustavsson to make way.

Montemurro also ended up on the final three of the shortlist in the USWNT’s pursuit of a new manager with the Olympics arriving soon, however legendary Chelsea manager Emma Hayes was selected to take over.

However, it could be for the better, with Lyon’s sky high expectations something that Montemurro will be very familiar with because of his time at both Arsenal and Juventus.

Lyon have won the French league 17 times in the last 18 seasons, making the league title the minimum requirement for Montemurro, who has really been brought on board to get them back on top in Europe after they lost to Barcelona in last month’s Champions League final.

Montemurro’s move to Europe’s elite is another step forward in his career and again showcases an example of local coaching success translating into roles in Europe, something that has not been seen enough for football in Australia.

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