Rival Australian commercial broadcasters Network Ten and Nine Network are set to go head-to-head for rights to domestic soccer’s A-League and women’s W-League from next season, it has been reported.
Rights to the competitions will be on offer from the 2021-22 campaign and Ten and Nine are the primary contenders, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Pay-television broadcaster Foxtel’s present deal for the leagues expires at the end of June.
US media giant ViacomCBS, which owns Ten, will launch its new Paramount+ streaming service in Australia this summer and is said to be keen to secure premium soccer rights to support its entry into the market.
Likewise, Nine is keen to snap up top soccer rights in the country to roll out on its Stan Sport streaming platform.
The rights to both the A-League and W-League are expected to be awarded this week.
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Foxtel is also believed to hold an interest in retaining the competitions and could launch a late bid through its streaming service Kayo Sports.
Last June, Foxtel ended its six-year deal with Football Federation Australia to cover top-tier soccer in the country due to its subsidiary Fox Sports having a force majeure clause, which it exercised because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The agreement also covered matches from the Australia men’s and women’s national teams.
After terminating its initial contract, the pay-TV operator instead signed a new one-year deal with FFA on reduced financial terms, until the end of June 2021.
The deal was worth around A$32 million ($24.8 million), compared with the A$57.7 million average annual fee that Foxtel was paying under the long-term contract that was due to run until the end of the 2022-23 season.
Ten is believed to have submitted the highest offer for the leagues thus far of more than A$20 million.
The commercial broadcaster previously had an interest in the A-League, having launched a bid in 2019 for the competition’s free-to-air rights but was ultimately unable to secure an agreement.
If it is successful in its new bid, it would represent the first local rights deal struck by Ten for the Paramount+ service.
The OTT platform, which is a rebranded and expanded version of 10 All Access, will launch in Australia on 11 August and ViacomCBS is keen to follow the same soccer strategy it has adopted in its home market in the US having acquired several premium properties including the Uefa Champions League, the elite European clubs competition, and Italy’s top-flight Serie A.
Stan Sport, which has a portfolio of rugby and tennis rights, is seeking to add another sport to its content offering.
Both deals are likely to involve a free-to-air element on either Ten or Nine’s secondary channels, but the vast majority of A-League and W-League matches would only be available to subscribers on Paramount+ or Stan Sport.
The A-League and W-League rights are being negotiated independently of FFA for the first time, with Australian Professional Leagues, the new commercial and marketing body for soccer in the country, responsible for broadcast discussions for both competitions.
The top domestic soccer leagues are among four active tenders currently on the market in the country, alongside the Champions League, Australia men’s and women’s national team matches, and the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
The Herald reports that commercial broadcaster Seven Network is interested in the Socceroos and Matildas national team games, held by FFA, and the World Cup, which is being sold by world governing body Fifa.
Telecoms firm Optus’ deal for the Champions League and secondary Europa League expires at the end of this season and it set to be replaced by Sports Flick only for the OTT subscription platform to pull out of a deal with Uefa.