Whole new ball game

A side­lined big footy player is wait­ing in the wings, write Dar­ren Dev­lyn and Ch­eryl Critchley

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

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.

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