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May 6, 2011

Buckley confident of getting TV right

Football Federation Australia chief executive Ben Buckley insists Australian soccer will get the right television deal despite two key hurdles facing the sport.

Buckley believes the AFL's record-breaking $1.253 billion TV rights agreement signed off last week is not a problem for soccer.

He subscribes to the theory that that deal helps other sports, rather than sucks money away from potential TV suitors.

But as soccer looks beyond its current contract with Fox Sports, which expires in mid-2013, more problematic may be the inclusion of future Socceroo World Cup qualifiers on the federal government's anti-siphoning list.

That could reduce what Fox Sports is prepared to bid if the pay-TV outlet cannot show the most valuable piece of soccer's TV rights puzzle.

While Fox has been widely acknowledged for its excellent soccer coverage of the A-League and Socceroos, free-to-air TV's support of the code has varied dramatically.

SBS was a devoted TV rights-holder until 1997, when a disastrous deal taking soccer to the Seven Network resulted in the domestic game being shown in underwhelming timeslots, or not at all.

Buckley, who masterminded the AFL's previous TV rights deal before joining the FFA, believes the changing media landscape could provide hitherto untapped opportunities for the sport to find an audience and media dollars.

"Mobile devices, tablet devices, subscription media services, subscription television, IP (internet protocol) TV - the media landscape is evolving so quickly," Buckley told AAP.

"It's a hungry beast that needs to be fed."

Under its current deal, soccer receives $18 million a year from Fox Sports.

There have been rumours that the FFA turned down a $40 million a year offer from Fox in 2009 to extend its deal.

Australia's leading media buyer Harold Mitchell warned during the week soccer and rugby union had a lot of work ahead to convince media companies to open their wallets in the wake of the AFL deal.

But Buckley said the AFL agreement was good news for soccer.

"What it says is that sports rights are still a very valuable proposition to media companies," he said.

"The last agreement was negotiated at a time the A-League was a white sheet of paper.

"Now we have six years of consistent viewing audiences. There's a stronger platform to build from.

"What we need to be able to demonstrate is value for media operators.

"That's where you get the income from."

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