Whole new ball game
A sidelined big footy player is waiting in the wings, write Darren Devlyn and Cheryl Critchley
IT’S only the second year of a five-year AFL broadcasting deal worth $780 million, but the TV industry is buzzing with speculation about the next broadcasting deal.
It’s a subject that has been on the mind of AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou for months.
After speculation the new deal could crack the billion-dollar mark, Demetriou told a corporate breakfast he expected Channel 9 to be a serious player when it came to negotiating coverage beyond 2011.
‘‘They (Nine) will bid,’’ Demetriou says. ‘‘One thing I can promise you, having just spent two days with all the broadcasters, including Nine, is that whatever we are watching on television today won’t look anything like it next time round.
‘‘It will be a different package, different technology, more choice. You’re going into an environment where the free-to-air broadcast will have multi-channelling, where pay television will have a stronger presence. There’s new media. Your computer will be your television. On your mobile phone you’ll be watching games. It will be completely different.’’
On the eve of round 1, 2008, broadcasters are responding with caution to predictions of a significantly more expensive rights deal.
Ian Johnson, managing director of Seven in Melbourne, has said the free-to-air broadcasters — Seven and Ten — will be unlikely to find room for an extra game resulting from an expanded competition. He believes extra games in Sydney and on the Gold Coast will end up on pay-TV and the location of new teams will not necessarily help the AFL gain more broadcast money.
Meanwhile, here’s what the rights-holders will be serving up this year.
TEN will broadcast Saturday afternoon and night games and selected games on public holidays.
It will have the Brownlow Medal count, Seven the Grand Final. Before the Game returns without Peter Helliar. In his place is long-suffering Richmond supporter Mick Molloy.
Ten’s Stephen Quartermain can’t wait to see ‘‘excitement machines’’ such as Carlton’s Chris Judd and Hawthorn’s Lance Franklin in action.
He is also hoping for off-field controversy. Quartermain reckons the game has become too clinical, player individuality quashed by over-anxious clubs.
He admires the likes of outspoken Bulldog Jason Akermanis and applauds coaches who speak out— not for a headline but to voice a genuine opinion.
‘‘There’s too much spin-doctoring going on,’’ he says. ‘‘There are too many clubs just trying to curtail people’s personality. It’s a pain.
‘‘Just have an opinion and don’t be afraid to express the opinion for fear of being hung, drawn and quartered by your club. I think that’s really healthy for the game.’’
Quartermain isn’t short of an opinion himself, saying a second Sydney club in the planned 18-team competition would be doomed.
He claims the Swans still struggle to capture hearts up north, and a second side would never penetrate rugby league’s heartland.
‘‘I don’t think the AFL should have a second team in Sydney ever,’’ he says. ‘‘Sydney is a oneteam town. I just don’t see how it’s going to work.
‘‘I think the Gold Coast is a definite yes. The sooner the better. It is a big AFL area.’’
Quartermain is unsure about claims the next TV rights deal could fetch $1 billion and says the two new teams will rate no more or less than others.
‘‘If they said next year, ‘Right, here are two extra teams, therefore the rights will be worth an extra $250 million’, that just isn’t going to happen,’’ he says.
SEVEN focused on match coverage in its 2007 return to footy broadcasting. This year it is adding new shows to its schedule.
Seven will cover Friday night and Sunday games. The network also has AFL Game Day, a Sunday morning show hosted by Hamish McLachlan, and Footy Flashbacks, a Sandy Roberts-hosted nostalgia series leading into Seven’s Sunday match broadcasts.
There’s no question former Collingwood captain Nathan Buckley, who was strongly tipped to go to Channel 10, is the boom recruit in 2008 TV broadcasting.
‘‘This is proving such an enjoyable challenge and what I’ve got to do is focus on the things I can improve,’’ Buckley says of game commentating.
His decision to go to Seven, he says, was motivated by several factors.
‘‘I feel very lucky to have come away from playing football and to have had some choices as to what I could do,’’ Buckley says.
‘‘Seven was a better fit for me. For a start, I love the idea of being part of Friday nights. As a player, Friday night was always my favourite slot and nothing’s changed.
‘‘I know what is expected of me and that I’ll be given every chance to perform. I am honest and I’m not afraid to speak up and get an opinion out there.’’
FOX Sports had a horror summer, dealing with the death of one of Australia’s most prolific sport callers, Clinton Grybas.
Commentators this year will be Dwayne Russell, Matthew Campbell and John Casey, backed by a list of callers and presenters including Jason Dunstall, Gerard Healy, Glen Jakovich and Leigh Colbert.
Brian Taylor joins Fox Sports as host of AFL Teams (Thursday). On Mondays, The Winners will be hosted by Russell. Healy, Mike Sheahan and Robert Walls will be back with On the Couch.
Dunstall, to be joined by Danny Frawley and new recruit Bill Brownless on the Friday evening show Before the Bounce, says they have found it difficult to deal with the loss of Grybas in January.
‘‘I know how professional Clinton was— he set such a great standard,’’ Dunstall says.
Fox Sports will broadcast a live Saturday afternoon game, followed by a second live game and highlights from other matches. It will also feature two live Sunday games.
‘‘The season is pretty exciting from our perspective because we are the No.1 option when it comes to live footy,’’ Dunstall says.
‘‘And Before the Bounce will be great. Billy’s a fantastic recruit. Then there will be Danny and myself and we’ll rotate the fourth chair every week to keep that news aspect of the show.’’
Full time: Ten’s Stephen Quartermain, Seven’s Nathan Buckley and Fox Sports’ Jason
Dunstall are looking forward to a big year.