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TV Rights, err Wrongs


When the 2012-16 AFL TV rights deal was announced the consensus was positive: a deal had been done that was going to deliver a bucket of money to the AFL. The negotiators had even managed to secure guarantees of live coverage for non-Victorian teams’ games into their home States.

Supposedly this was a great deal for the fans. Especially fans of struggling teams whose existence was now virtually guaranteed by the AFL’s need for 9 games per week.

I disagree.


Since the Swans moved to Sydney in 1982 the football administrators have been pushing for the expansion of the competition. “A true national competition” is the catch-cry. We’ve had the Bears, the Eagles, the Crows, the Dockers, Power and now Suns join the league. It’s been renamed from VFL to AFL. We have more games. We have games at different times. Footy is truly a big, national business.

I ask “why is this so great?”.

What is so great about games being played all over the country? What is so great about the league having so much money?

I can accept that the quality of most games is now better than ever. I can accept that the grounds and spectator facilities are world class. I can even accept that it’s good that the players are earning more money.

But who is paying for all this? We the fans are paying. And in particular, we the fans of Melbourne-based teams are paying are disproportionate share.


We now have access to LESS live football. When 12 Victorian teams made up the VFL I could go to the footy every week should I choose. Over a 22 round season I had the option of attending almost any of the 22 games (ground capacity was the only restriction). All Victorian teams now play interstate 4-6 times per year. My Tigers have sold 2 additional games interstate (Darwin and Cairns) in 2011. So this year there’s only 16 games I can attend. With Greater Western Sydney joining the competition in 2012 I imagine 13-14 games in Melbourne will become the norm.

But that’s alright, I hear you say, you can still watch the games on television. And with the new rights deal that’s only going to get better, right?

Wrong, watching footy on TV is crap.

(1) If the coverage is coming from stadiums that were built before TV was important (SCG, I’m looking at you) the game can be almost unwatchable. The angles are bad, the cameras miss key parts of the game and the producers seem to take joy in changing between the various cameras – so the viewer struggles to work out where in the ground the play is occurring.

(2) While the broadcast networks may try, the TV atmosphere is a very poor substitute for being at the game. Shouting at a TV just feels wrong. Spectators at Australian Rules games are participants in the game (there’s a post for a more positive time) but not when watching on TV.

(3) Pay TV. The name really gives it away here. Footy is not reason enough to subscribe to Pay TV. The economics don’t add up: $80 per mth for the cheapest package that includes footy is near enough to $1000 per year. Even if your club played interstate 10 times per year that’s still $100 per game. You can almost buy airfares to each game for that much money. So it’s off to the pub or a friend’s house – not such a bad thing, except that shouting at a TV in public is probably even worse than in your own home. And there’s always someone who’s not as interested in the footy as you – whether it’s the loudmouth at the pub or your host’s spouse – you can forget about being able to give the footy your undivided attention.

(4) The priority of the TV networks (I): when the Swans moved to Sydney the VFL told fans “don’t worry, you will be able to watch your team on (free to air) TV live whenever they play interstate”. Now the opposite is true. If you can’t get to the match then it’s almost always on Pay TV. Why? Because it makes the fans buy Pay TV. Their priority is to make $. And they’ll do whatever best extracts $ from the fans’ wallets.

(5) The priority of the TV networks (II): when the game is on free-to-air TV the networks milk it for every last ounce of value. Take the Sunday afternoon game on Channel 7: they treat the game and it’s fans with total disrespect. Seven’s primary goal is to deliver viewers to it’s Sunday night news. Second it’s to cram as many advertisements into the game as possible.

So we have a game in Sydney that started at 2:10pm and would have finished at approximately 4:40pm. Channel 7 start their coverage at 3pm (3:10pm bounce) but don’t finish it until exactly 6pm. Yes, they’ve turned a 2.5 hour game into a 3 hour game! And what have they used to fill in this extra time? Advertisements of course. But not a few extra minutes during each quarter time break; not a detailed analysis after the game; no they took the water-torture approach and added 2 extra adverts after each goal. Instead of the 30 second (maybe 40 second) break they have after a goal during live games the pricks at Channel 7 made each break 3 adverts long. I didn’t time the breaks, but I’m guessing it was 60-90 seconds. Enough time to totally ruin the flow of the game, but not enough time to go and do something useful. It was almost unwatchable.

In fact it was unwatchable. And I won’t be suffering through that again. Next time it is live radio. They’ve lost me.

(and FWIW I will be going out of my way to not purchase products from their advertisers – easy to say since I don’t need any banking products, grey-hair treatments, multivitamins or house & land packages)

So, this is the future of footy. I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s any better than the VFL days and I’m angry because it wouldn’t take much for the fans to be treated with the respect we deserve.


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