Opportunities Await Australia’s A-League Men in Crowded Sports Market
Australia’s A-League Men, now in its 19th year, faces the challenge of establishing its identity in a crowded sporting market. Australia’s population of 25 million competes for attention with sports like AFL, NRL and Cricket. While the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) believes there are 10 million football fans in the country, the majority follow the Premier League, La Liga or Bundesliga. Fans do not hesitate to get up at all hours of the night to watch their favourite overseas team compete on the field, but for some reason, have no desire to attend an A-League match. This presents a challenge for the A-League to attract fans to its games.
However, the changing demographics in Australia, with an influx of migrants from football-loving nations, offer an opportunity for the A-League to grow. The league aims to accelerate this growth by delivering a high-quality product on the pitch and strengthening its clubs. The 2023-24 A-League Men’s season is the third in a five-season media rights agreement with Paramount worth $155 million, but it has faced challenges with disappointing attendances and television ratings.
The A-League has been working with Paramount to enhance its visibility and engagement. While there will be no live coverage on Paramount’s flagship channel, the A-League now has two free-to-air slots every week, doubling its exposure compared to the previous season. The league believes in the value of growing collectively with Paramount and aims to increase Paramount+ subscribers.
A-Leagues’ British commissioner Nick Garcia stated, “Paramount sees sport as a key driver to their business and we’re their key sport right now, so getting Paramount+ subscribers is going to be really important as we go forward. Paramount is the fastest-growing platform in the region. It is doing really well as an entity and they’re ingesting a lot of content. We’re really happy with how that is progressing, but also in terms of how we’re growing on the platform.”
Viewership numbers have shown growth, with a 31% increase in aggregated minutes for the A-League Men’s and a 63% increase for the women’s league compared to the previous year. Despite concerns about the product and user experience, the league is committed to addressing these issues and improving the fan experience.
To boost audience numbers and gate receipts, the league and Paramount have adjusted the playing schedule for 2023-24. There will be no 3pm kick-off times during the summer, with most matches kicking off after 5pm. Additionally, there will be more Thursday night fixtures during school holidays to provide consecutive nights of football for families to enjoy.
The A-League is working to build consistency and attract fans to its games in a competitive sports market. Garcia explains, “We’ve done the research and where we have simultaneous broadcasts, we see about a 20-per-cent drop off in audience numbers on TV… We wanted to push later in the day wherever possible because we’re a summer sport… and we’re playing across multiple times, all the way from Perth right through to Wellington in New Zealand.
“But also what we’ve been really trying to do is build consistency into the product. Fans are creatures of habit, so making sure that at this time on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, that’s when they watch their A-Leagues game. So just enabling that to happen was a key part of the thinking.”