In France, pay-TV channel Canal+ "is rubbing its hands together" as it prepares to air the home and away legs of the quarterfinal Champions league clash between FC Barcelona and Paris St. Germain, according to SPORTUNE. Knowing the "craziness that took place" at the PSG ticket offices after the draw took place with between 700,000 and 1 million ticket demands, "it is easy to figure out that the audiences will be strong for Canal+." PSG's round of 16 tie against Valencia "was already significantly profitable" with 1.74 million viewers for the home leg and 1.85 million for the return leg. The Barcelona clash will possibly "beat or at least get close" to breaking Canal+'s audience record of 2.84 million viewers for its Feb. 24 broadcast of PSG-Marseille (SPORTUNE, 3/20).
Sydney has become a city of couch potatos, according to Phil Rothfield of the Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH. Crowds in most major sports "have fallen in Sydney in recent years while Fox Sports and Channel Nine ratings have skyrocketed." Melbourne "is also showing us up as a more passionate and fanatical sporting centre," with nearly 7 million fans attending sporting events each year compared to only 3.6 million in Sydney. Alarm bells "were set off in rugby league when only 9,000 fans turned up to watch the Wests Tigers play Penrith at Campbelltown last weekend on a perfect Sunday afternoon." Other sports "are in decline too while the television networks report record figures." Fox Sports ratings increased by 17% on National Rugby League last year and Channel Nine is up 14% this season. The A-League "is the only sport that bucks the trend" -- Sydney FC because of Alessandro Del Piero and the Wanderers, which offer far more affordable tickets. The Sydney Cricket Ground Trust "is taking steps to get fans back to the game with a number of innovations, including a new smart phone app that will allow fans to order their food and beverages then have it delivered to their seats." It is a difficult situation for Channel Nine because it hates "empty seats as much as administrators." Nine Sports Dir Steve Crawley said, "We're delighted with the ratings but we need big crowds to create atmosphere. There's nothing worse than doing a telecast with a pile of empty seats in the background." Major stadiums "are taking up the challenge to fill empty seats." Soon at the SCG and Allianz "you will be able to order food and beverages from your seat via your mobile phone." The SCG "has successfully completed trials and the app is almost ready to go." SCG Trust CEO Jamie Barkley said, "It's a game-changing approach to spectator attendance at NRL games. We are about delivering the ultimate fan experience." The SCG is also erecting a new 273 square meter video screen -- the largest at any Australian sports venue (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/22).
England fans will be able to watch Tuesday night's World Cup qualifier against Montenegro after ITV "struck a deal that ends the uncertainty over its coverage of the match," according to O'Connor & Munnery of the LONDON TIMES. ITV, which has the rights to all England games until '14, had "found itself caught in the middle of a dispute between the Montenegro FA and Kentaro, the agency that sold the rights to the match" (LONDON TIMES, 3/21). In London, Owen Gibson reported ITV's live coverage "had been in the balance" because Kentaro "had its contract annulled and the rights are instead being handled by a rival agency." ITV had already paid an upfront fee for the rights, estimated at between £500,000 ($759,000) and £750,000 ($1.1M) and "was then faced with having to negotiate a new agreement with SportFive." Kentaro still counts the Montenegrins among its clients on its website, claiming it is "proud" to support the Montenegro FA "and their famous president Dejan Savicevic" (GUARDIAN, 3/21). Also in London, Ben Rumsby reported ITV was also chasing Kentaro for the return of between £500,000 and £750,000 the broadcaster handed the agency up front in order to secure the rights. The precise value of the deal or the new contract agreed with SportFive was unknown (TELEGRAPH, 3/21).
Netball is now the "most covered women's sport in Australia" thanks to a landmark broadcasting deal which will see 69 games of the ANZ championship and seven Test matches telecast by Fox Sports in '13 and '14, according to Amanda Lulham of the Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH. SBS has replaced Channel 10 as the free-to-air station and "will broadcast two highlight shows and one game of the competition" between Australia and New Zealand clubs each week. However, Fox Sports will air every match of the world-class competition, "including the NSW Swifts first outing against West Coast Fever at Sydney Olympic Park on Monday night." Fox Sports' "unprecedented coverage" will also include the four-week finals of the ANZ championship telecast live for the first time along with every one of Australia's Test matches played at home and across the Tasman in '13 and '14 (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/22).