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DAZN enters the streaming arena – A three-way tussle for Australian football?

Worldwide sports streaming service DAZN recently announced it will expand its international footprint in 2020, distributing its service to more than 200 new countries and territories including Australia.

The first event on DAZN that will be shown to a global audience will be Canelo Alvarez’s soon-to-be-announced fight on May 2.

DAZN EVP Joseph Markowski stated: “Establishing DAZN as the global home of fight sports is just the first step and we couldn’t think of a better attraction for our inaugural event than Canelo’s traditional Cinco de Mayo Weekend fight.”

While the company’s initial focus is on boxing in their global agenda, in the Australian market the Sydney Morning Herald claims DAZN has shown signs of interest in acquiring the A-League rights.

DAZN has a history of pursuing domestic football competition rights in countries where they have implemented their streaming service.

In Japan, DAZN signed a deal with the J.League worth almost $3 billion over a ten-year-period in 2016. The deal, which began in 2017, gave DAZN broadcast rights to show all games in the top three divisions of Japanese football.

The streaming service launched in Italy in August 2018, with exclusive rights acquired to show three Serie A matches per week.

So, if the price is right, why wouldn’t Australian football be a good choice for DAZN’s first major investment in the Australian market?

The upcoming rugby union rights which are set to be settled soon, may also be on the company’s radar.

There is an argument however, that those who watch rugby union may not be an appealing demographic for a streaming service, when compared to those who watch Australian football.

In a column for Fox Sports last week, Simon Hill revealed football is the most digitally engaged sport in the country.

Data put together by research company ‘Futures’ highlighted that almost three out of four people who follow the A-League’s Facebook page are under 35.

While other codes in Australia may have bigger numbers overall, the younger demographic of Australian football fans means more content is consumed online.

This is an attractive proposition for a streaming service such as DAZN, who will be interested in engaging with an already tech savvy audience.

It doesn’t seem like they will be the only ones interested in Australian football rights, with Optus Sport continuing to build their portfolio this past week.

On Tuesday, Optus Sport announced they have secured the rights to broadcast the Copa America this year to Australian viewers.

The tournament rights will include at least five Socceroos games, as Australia enters the South American competition for the first time ever.

Alongside this news, an interesting 14-part series is set to be released in the build-up to UEFA Euro 2020, another tournament they will be broadcasting on their platform.

The series looks to highlight the strong European influence on Australia’s footballing landscape, focusing on historic clubs such as South Melbourne FC, Sydney United and Melbourne Knights.

A two-minute promo for the series shown on Optus Sport’s social channels, has been well received by the online football community.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the telco was involved with further rights negotiations in the future, once the current A-League deal has expired and the National Second Division is up and running.

Football Victoria recently revealed it is in discussions with Optus Sport to broadcast weekly shows on its service.

The telco seems to be on its way to becoming the new home of football in Australia, with Foxtel looking like it is focusing on Cricket, AFL and NRL.

A-League TV ratings are continuing to drop on Foxtel, but the great unknown is its streaming subsidiary Kayo Sports who are not revealing their numbers.

It would make sense that at least part of the A-League’s TV ratings decline is due to those younger football fans migrating to the sport’s streaming service.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the Round 17 match between Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar had a reach of 46,000 for the Fox Sports broadcast and 109,000 when it came to streaming.

While the numbers are not necessarily impressive for the Fox broadcast, the streaming figures are more than double and would include Kayo Sports and the My Football Live service.

The streaming numbers are encouraging for the A-League clubs and also Foxtel, who may see the A-League as an important part of its digital offering on Kayo.

Time will tell whether that is the case, with Foxtel currently holding those rights until 2023.

But what’s evident is that there is appetite for Australian football in the online space, despite the current doom and gloom around linear TV ratings.

La Liga’s FIFA 20 Esports tournament attracts over a million viewers

La Liga’s charity FIFA 20 Challenge Esports tournament held over the weekend had more than one million viewers in total who tuned in, according to the Spanish top-flight soccer league’s organising body.

Collectively there were 18 teams from Spain’s top-flight who took part in the competition on 22nd March, which was streamed live via YouTube, Twitch, the LaLigaSportsTV over-the-top (OTT) platform, as well as on La Liga’s official social media channels to ensure everyone could get access to the coverage.

Barcelona and Real Mallorca weren’t allowed to participate due to their sponsorship with Konami – the makers of FIFA 20’s main competitor, Pro Evolution Soccer.

The tournament was organised by Esports commentator Ibai Llanos and endorsed by La Liga, where it took shape in partnership with Spanish banking group Santander, La Liga’s main title sponsor, as well as EA Sports, the producers of the most recent FIFA 20 title.

It raised more than €140,000 ($250,000) to fight Covid-19, as Spain has become one of the hardest hit countries in the world.

La Liga commentator Miguel Ángel Román joined Llanos in presenting the matches, and players gave interviews in the aftermath as an effort to replicate the feel of a traditional match day experience.

The tournament was created and launched whilst the La Liga season is suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic. The final itself saw more than 170,000 viewers tune in as Real Madrid striker Marco Asensio beat Leganés player Aitor Ruibal to claim the title.

In terms of linear distribution, La Liga’s domestic broadcast partner Movistar+ also showed matches on Spanish television, via its Deportes 1 channel, while Eleven Sports also aired the tournament in Belgium and Portugal.

La Liga has said that it is also carrying out further analysis to clarify the tournament’s reach via the #LaLigaSantanderChallenge hashtag, which was shared by influencers, clubs, and players, as well as Movistar and La Liga’s US broadcast partner, BeIN Sports.

Judging by the numbers for this tournament, it proved to be the winner as gaming proves popular while people are having to self isolate.

The EA Sports FIFA franchise has connected fans all around the world, continuing to be a popular source of competitive online gameplay.

Can E-Sports Captalise on this Monumental Opportunity?

The world has been brought to a near standstill as a result of the coronavirus.

Many businesses across the globe, namely small businesses have been seriously hampered. Many may struggle to resurface once everything calms down.

Football clubs are not exempt to this, either.

Around the world, nearly every league competition has been postponed to avoid players, staff and fans from contracting the virus which has claimed nearly 19,000 lives worldwide at the time of writing.

It all started with the Serie A postponing all fixtures. Italy has been ravaged by the virus and it was no surprise that they were the first to temporarily shut up shop.

Spain and La Liga followed suit, before the Premier League and nearly every other competition decided to also bite the bullet and call it off.

Other sports have also been hit hard, with Australian rules football, cricket and basketball in the same boat.

Many clubs and organisations will suffer substantial financial losses as a result and when the dust eventually settles, they will never be the same again.

However, in these dark and bizarre times, one sporting arena has the opportunity to take in the spotlight and grow like they’d never imagined they could.

E-sports have always been a topic for debate. There aren’t many who out and out hate the concept of it, but there is a strong contingent who aren’t fond of it, purely because it’s not the real thing. That it is not a sport.

On the contrary, there are many who believe it is a great niche for some who do have great ability on their respective platforms and that this is a way for them to display their abilities.

With nearly every major sporting code called off until further notice, E-sports is the only sport that will be consistently available to sporting fans around the globe.

There are lots of different games that are played in E-sports. For example, Dota 2, Counterstrike and Fortnite lead the financial market for E-sports.

Nearly $400 million has been handed out to winners across all three of those platforms.

When it comes to sports though, FIFA is well and truly ahead of the game.

Online FIFA has a massive audience around the world, especially in Europe, where many football clubs have signed E-sports players to represent their clubs in major tournaments.

FIFA Ultimate Team has been a huge part of many kids’ lives and now, as they grow into young adults, they now have the unprecedented opportunity to make money off of playing the game they love.

This massive opportunity for E-sports could help them catapult onto a level that could be equal to that of the everyday sports we’ve become accustomed to.

Despite the terrible nature of these circumstances, E-sports leagues across the world would see it as a huge chance gone begging if they were to let this pass up.

There are literally no other sports of note taking place right now.

Unless you can’t get enough of the Russian volleyball, there is not much to turn to at this moment for sports fans.

Granted, tournaments won’t be held in one venue due to restrictions on public gatherings. But as the only requirement is for two players to be present and on a steady internet connection, there’s no reason they can’t keep playing.

FIFA is a universally appreciated game and many fans will begin following their respective club’s representative for E-sports during these tough times.

To simply treat this as normal would be the worst thing clubs and organisations associated with FIFA E-sports could do.

They must take advantage of this enormous opportunity before they never get it back again. Sure, the coronavirus is a large distraction, but if E-sports is to be taken seriously, they must take action.

You can never truly grasp how great an opportunity is until you’ve lost it.

Would you like to see E-sports become more prominent in the wake of the coronavirus? Let us know on social media @Soccersceneau and join in the conversation.

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Above all else, stay indoors and be sensible over the next few weeks or months and look after each other.

 

 

How should Australian football best use its COVID-19 postponement?

FFA head James Johnson revealed the worst keep secret in Australian football early Tuesday morning; announcing the immediate suspension of A-League play on the back of the continued threat of COVID-19 . With states and territories having moved decisively on border control and lock down procedures, Johnson referred to a continuation as having become practically impossible.

The W-League did manage to squeeze their season in before the announcement was made, with a grand final between Melbourne City and Sydney FC last Saturday. The Melbourne City women may well be the last football team in Australia to win a championship for some time.

Words such as unprecedented, unique and testing have been common place in language over the past few weeks and the seriousness of the pandemic escapes no one at this time. Public health and prude governance are the most important aspects of the current situation, hopefully, wise decisions and action lead to a flattening of the curve and a slow return to normality over the next few months.

With around 1.8 million Australians who would normally be engaged with the beautiful game at this time of year in isolation and forbidden to compete, it would be prudent for FFA to think about encouraging behaviours that will benefit domestic football when it does eventually return.

As a first port of call, FFA should interact with the federations and ensure that junior players are sent age and skill appropriate drills to complete whilst confined to their home address. Many children will have a backyard in which to complete the drills, whilst others may be limited to small spaces available in apartments or town houses.

Technical directors could construct short clips and illustrated diagrams and then email and/or text the content to players using the official register in each federation.

Many young people will be feeling anxious about COVID-19, thanks to certain sections of the media that do little to encourage calm and thoughtful behaviour. Providing content for kids to work individually on their football skills would be a nice way to add a dose of normality for what will be a very strange time in their lives.

Slightly older players could also be engaged by their clubs, with coaching staff and technical consultants producing content they feel individual players need to work on. Within a supportive and digital environment, coaches might be able to set goals and objectives for the group and could potentially instil a competitive and diligent commitment to the drills that is so often lacking in junior players.

Players at NPL will find great challenges in maintaining fitness levels during the hiatus, with many young players no doubt living in high density situations with partners and young children. At a professional level, the AFL and NRL have set about the task of outlining fitness programs for their players that are adaptable to both indoor and outdoor environments. No doubt, the A-League will be following suit as we speak.

Many of the AFL players spoken to appeared at a loss as to how they would maintain fitness and skill levels without the expensive and vast resources of the football club to which they below. For NPL players it will be even more difficult, with the now closed local gyms the most common place for them to develop and maintain physical condition.

All NPL clubs need to establish a digital forum that includes the players, support staff and coaches in order to be pro-active during what appears likely to be an extended period away from the game. Once again, that sense of collegiality would be emotionally beneficial and with performance targets in place, the incentive to work collectively could potentially avoid any apathy that may occur in isolation.

The successful E-League concept should be immediately expanded with A and W League players engaged in play. A handful of players from each club with some X-BOX or PlayStation experience could be enlisted to play brief matches live on line, with the games streamed for fans to view via the club’s Facebook pages and the official A-League site.

The banter and enjoyment provided by what would no doubt be a comical yet also potentially competitive competition would further engage young fans and continue the objective of keeping the football community connected at this difficult time.

NPL New South Wales’ Facebook page is leading the way with lateral and creative thinking, already posting classic NPL matches for fans to view. The newly launched NPL.TV offers further potential in terms of streamed content and interaction and the National Premier Leagues’ #PlayAtHomeChallenge is a fun initiative that many players will be drawn to.

There is an emotional component to what all professional sport is about to encounter in Australia and monitoring and measuring that will prove difficult. The mind is fundamentally more important than the body and ensuring our football communities remain connected, active and positive is vitally important as most of us enter a period of isolation thanks to COVID-19.

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