AN improved new A-League TV deal could be struck before the start of the season, as a cloud hangs over the Socceroos’ coverage.
The Socceroos will be broadcast on Fox Sports, but the decisive final phase of qualifying may not be televised on free-to-air (FTA) until an A-League deal is struck.
The Socceroos host Iraq on September 1 at Perth’s nib Stadium before playing UAE away five days later.
Fox Sports, which has bankrolled the A-League since 2005, has exclusive A-League negotiating rights until September 30 under the terms of its current contract.
While the current A-League rights deal runs for another year, both Football Federation Australia and Fox Sports would prefer for a new deal to kick in this season.
The Herald Sun understands that Fox Sports has pitched a fresh offer to FFA for the A-League, believed to be well in excess of the current $40m-a-year deal.
Fox Sports would then onsell rights to a FTA partner. Channel 10, which is part owned by Foxtel, has expressed most interest in televising A-League and Socceroos games, but Seven and Nine are also in the mix.
While the rights are being sold separately, it’s understood that Fox Sports has proposed bundling the A-League and Socceroos rights together and onselling to just one FTA network.
But with the A-League season kicking off on October 7, any hope of Fox and a new FTA partner televising the 2016-17 season rests on a deal being struck well before the September 30 deadline expiry.
FFA and Fox Sports refused to comment on TV rights last night, as negotiations continue.
If FFA refuses to strike a deal by September 30 and opts to negotiate directly with the FTA networks, opening the door for the likes of Optus, SBS _ which subsidises a small portion of the current deal after subsequently buying one game a week _ will continue broadcasting the A-League this season with Fox.
It would also leave a big cloud over the Socceroos’ FTA rights, with the anti-siphoning laws not kicking in until October, when the exclusive negotiating period is over.
The Socceroos play Saudi Arabia away on October 6 before hosting Japan at Etihad Stadium on October 11, the marquee fixture of the qualifiers.
The protracted negotiations are a blow for FFA, with the World Cup qualifiers receiving no promotion and while radio broadcast and digital streaming rights are on hold.
Fox Sports has struck an in-principle deal with Lagardere Sports and Entertainment to televise Socceroos matches.
Lagardere (formerly World Sports Group) chose to sell the Socceroos rights, believing there was value in the Socceroos’ 10-game bundle package, headlined by the heavyweight clash with Japan, plus five home qualifiers and the away games in Thailand and Japan on at viewer-friendly times.