Thanks to Kim Williams stitching up Kerry Stokes, Fox Footy is back after a five year hiatus, bigger and bigger than ever.
"They don't do smoke and shadows behind the windows." ~~ Travis Cloke.
A one billion dollar Trojan horse is how Greg "Aeneas" Baum describes the TV rights deal in his excellent article in today's Age:
THE Trojan horse is through the gates now. The red carpet was rolled out for it. For two days, the people have danced around it, chortling to each other about what a glorious beast it is. ''One billion dollars,'' they exclaim, as if the words themselves are some sort of magic formula, certainly not to be lampooned, like that other popular mantra of the day, ''William and Kate''. The new television deal is the AFL's royal wedding.
Media become shy on this topic because many in the industry have television deals, free-to-air and pay, and the rest claim their subscriptions on tax. I'm as guilty as any.
Even as AFL fans coo and fawn over this horse parading so splendidly before them, perhaps one of them should take a moment to look it in the mouth.
Hats off to Andrew Demetriou who "twisted David Leckie's arm" for live footy, and still gouged the networks for more than one billion dollars for the AFL rights:
The AFL has announced its massive broadcast rights deals, to reap over $1.253 billion for the nation's leading sport organisation over the five years from 2011-2016.
When I first got Foxtel back in January 2000 programs generally had just one ad break per hour consisting of promotions for other Foxtel programs; for instance, were you watching the Simpsons, you would get an ad for the History Channel, a sport and The Simpsons. Several years later the ad frequency had increased to every 15 minutes. Now the ads appear roughly every 11 minutes and are full blown "retail opportunities" as Martin Brundell was wont to say when it was time to interrupt the grand prix. Try an experiment: flick around your Foxtel channels and see how often you lob on a station when there is an ad on. This happens for two reasons: one) there are more ads, derrr; and two) Foxtel subsidiaries puts ads on differrent channels at the same time to stop you flicking, just like the FTA stations.
Obviously the ads increased as Foxtel sought to pay for increased programming costs as it purchased more product. It was also loss leading. Foxtel was prepared to drop money as it tried to attract subscribers to cable television just like a drug dealer tempting a potential junky. "Go on, try it. A little taste won't hurt."
Foxtel is now set to shell more than half a billion dollars for the rights to just about all the footy. Where does it find this enormous chunk of change if it is not able to increase subscriber numbers? (It would be interesting to know how many new subscribers signed up for Foxtel when it had the footy from 2002 to 2006.) Stands to reason they will have to increase their advertising revenue. Betting promotion will increase. Cross promotion, too. There will also, no doubt, be an add-on cost for subscribers to access the Footy Channel. And then there are Foxtel's disguised ads: the pre-match half hour filler.
It is already mooted Foxtel will have ads during play for the four matches per round they will simulcast with Seven, while it is unlikely they will have ads for the other (soon to be) five games. The way Fox handles this twin coverage will also be interesting; how will the simulcast matches with ads compare with the straight to Fox matches without ads. With the aid of an imaginative mind, that dichotomy prompts another question: will Foxtel ever have ads on their non-simulcast matches?
Rohan Connolly, be careful what you wish for:
Seven, and to a lesser extent Ten's, coverage of AFL today reminds me more than a little of the current political climate in Canberra. Trying so hard to be all things to all people that they end up standing for little and not pleasing anyone much.
That's Foxtel's advantage. It knows its market is serious hardcore football fans, and caters accordingly. Though, it has to be said, the sort of things for which we're now grateful should be a given for any network.
Like live coverage of games, for starters. Like no advertising breaks after every goal, so you can actually see the score replayed and analysed by the special comments men. Like panel shows that actually talk about football and not themselves.
I'll have to pay. But at least I'll get to see what I should, and know that I'm watching it on a station that appears to genuinely love the game as much as I do, not just as a potential ratings boost for its other programs.
Foxtel has always provided solid footy coverage. They don't have any great commentators (the pool of commentary talent is depressingly shallow), they don't employ any whizz-bang effects, but, as Rohan says, Foxtel treats footy as the main event, not the garnishing. Whether it stays that way is another matter.
All that and I have not mentioned sports viewers' least favourite two words: 1) official; and 2) broadcaster.
If TV networks made more money from running AFL matches live rather than on delay, they would already do it. In reality, AFL broadcasters bleed money so as to attract viewers to their other rubbish:
A LEADING media analyst believes Channel 7 would be sacrificing up to $400,000 in advertising revenue a weekend if forced to show football live. Fusion Strategy managing director Steve Allen said Seven can make as much as $20,000 from each extra minute of advertising in its delayed football coverage.
When forced to show games live it cannot squeeze extra ads into the telecast between goals.
"The difference between Better Homes and Gardens and the AFL is that Better Homes is profitable and the AFL is not.
Networks such as Seven and Ten consistently lose money on their football telecasts, but being a football network helps with cross promotion and general ratings appeal.
When I first read the following article I thought "pushed back 10 minutes" meant the Seven telecast would be delayed by ten minutes, which is not exactly live, and which would have been a monumental piece of skullduggery. But then I realised it meant the games themselves were to be pushed back 10 minutes, which apparently is a piece of skullduggery - at least according to Caro:
FRIDAY night football would be televised live every week for the first time and pay TV operator Foxtel would get to show finals live under a landmark $1 billion deal being negotiated between the big networks and the AFL.
As the deal moves towards its ambitious $1 billion price tag, it has emerged that Seven is close to a compromise with the league to make all Friday night telecasts live - in return for match starting times being pushed back 10 minutes.
In what could prove to be a controversial change among fans who attend matches - particularly families with young children - Friday games would be shifted from their current 7.40pm start to 7.50pm.
Andy Dollars & his three amigos will have done a sensational job if they manage to get the TV networks to go live as well as cough up the famous billion dollars.
Still, the ink is not yet dry. It remains to be seen whether Friday Night Footy is absolutely live as opposed to almost live. There's always The Delay. The TV stations will not want to lose listeners to the radio broadcasts, so a little time-shift tweaking is likely to happen as the TV network tries to scramble the radio & picture feeds. If you don't want to listen to the ads, you can always investigate the effectiveness of a delay-o-tron or IQ it.
Last year on July 29, a wise person wrote:
The AFL are, allegedly, looking to push the price for the TV rights from $750 million to $1 billion. Currently marquee games are on delay: Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday. Yet the AFL want an extra $250 million as well as have the TV stations alter their current programming to run the matches live. Does this not smack of cake and eat it, too?
Can the TV stations make up the extra dosh by moving from delayed to live broadcasts? Do the TV stations want the football enough to push the price out to $1 billion?
do the TV stations run games on delay purely to fit into their schedules? Channel Seven go on about viewer loyalty of Better Homes & Gardens, but do they really care that much about the BH&G income stream? Could running big games on delay means they can better pad their coverage? Surely, they would want to avoid having viewers turn off the sound and listen to the radio. Yes, there is the delay, but technology such as the Delay-o-Tron allows viewers to synchronise the sound and picture.
Up until now, the AFL have been unwilling to force TV stations to cough up more money and run all matches live. Belatedly, after the last contract negotiations were complete, the punters realised that, yet again, Friday night live was somehow left out of the agreement. Instead we were informed that Friday night matches were supposedly covered by and article of faith, a "discretionary" agreement, whereby the AFL crossed their fingers and hoped that maybe the TV stations would do the right thing by the viewers and show a match live if the match warranted the live treatment. For an extra $250 million, is this likely to change?
Today in the Herald Sun, Michael Warner (who really should have consulted the AGB, but instead consulted rent-a-quote footy oaf, Joffa):
FOOTY fans face another five years of delayed Friday night TV broadcasts.
As the AFL closes in on a new TV rights deal expected to top $1 billion, Channel 7 is refusing to give in to pressure to sacrifice top-rating Better Homes & Gardens and show footy live.
Also today in the Herald Sun, Mike Sheahan:
OF course the Seven network wants to preserve and extend the status quo.
Why would a network, any network, want to tamper in any way with an arrangement that guarantees fours hours of high-rating, prime-time television on Friday nights for the best part of 30 weeks?
No, if we are finally to get live football on Friday night every week, the AFL is going to have to concede a slice of the rights generated by the Friday night component.
Anyone see the presentation of the trophy after today's Geelong vs. Hawthorn game? To paraphrase:
Andrew Maher: "Cam, how does it feel to do your bit for cancer research?"
Cameron Ling: "Depression, actually. Beyond Blue."
A sloppy gaffe with even sloppier timing.
Debi Enker, reviewing Seven's footy coverage in today's Green Guide, opines that Nathan Buckley "can parlay his knowledge of the game, and perceptive readings of strategies and player performance, into illuminating observations as it unfolds." Fair enough... but how would she know? There is a mistake in her first sentence which is the kind of howler that says to me she has barely ever watched Seven's footy.
Close your eyes and you might imagine her sitting at her desk, frantically trying to make deadline: "Someone, anyone, tell me something, anything, about Friday Night Footy!"
Channel Seven, 8pm
TV's best football commentary team, anchored by Bruce McAvaney, Dennis "Ox" Cometti and Nathan "Bucks" Buckley, gathers tonight to cover the clash between the Western Bulldogs and the Sydney Swans. It's a lively, well-informed and astute triumvirate. McAvaney, with his terrier-like excitement about the game and firm grasp on all the stats related to it. Cometti, with his rich voice, left-field pop-culture references and inspired off-the-cuff remarks. And this year's versatile new recruit, Buckley. The former Collingwood captain has been proven to be more than just a commanding former player with a profile that's handy for network promotions. He's also one of that rare breed who can parlay his knowledge of the game, and perceptive readings of strategies and player performance, into illuminating observations as it unfolds. While it is true that the nervy Rick Olarenshaw still has some delivery issues down on the ground with his injury reports and interviews, when it comes to the commentary booth, this team triumphs.
What's more, while he's a terrific commentator, most every real footy devotee knows "Ox" Cometti's remarks are anything but off-the-cuff.
Deb: May the Schwarz be with you!