Channel Ten’s contribution to the AFL underestimated
10 years ago, the 2001 AFL Grand Final was tinged with the emotion of Channel Seven exiting the footy telecasting business. It was marked with a lot of publicity in the lead up to the Grand Final (it was almost bigger than the match).
10 years on, we are in a similar position that is not getting as much publicity as it should.
After the Grand Final, Channel 10 will exit the football telecasting business for at least five years.
The station rebooted after winning the AFL rights as it is in the middle of massive cost-cutting and according to the bigwigs, AFL costs too much money.
To understand the underestimation of footy on Channel Ten, you have to go back to when it won the rights in late 2000.
Teaming up with Channel Nine and News Limited, the consortium snatched the rights off long time telecaster, Channel Seven.
Expecting Nine to be the home of finals, the footy world was shocked when Ten managed to buy the rights to all the finals including the Grand Final.
Channel Ten became the ‘September Network’, where the emotion and moments that define September were exclusive to the network considered a backwater in Aussie TV.
In 2007, when it won the rights again, Ten managed to telecast three of the five Grand Finals it shared with Seven.
Whatever you think of footy telecasting, Channel Ten did a very good job in promoting this great game. It pioneered live telecasts of footy into Sydney and Brisbane and stuck by it even when the ratings were poor.
Where Nine in 2002 promoted its commentators as the stars, Ten let the pictures do the talking.
Ten were also innovators in their telecasts. Cameras on goals/umpires, GPS tracking systems, female commentators and the five-minute warning (despite people detesting it, I loved it) were all Ten innovations.
While they all didn’t work, Ten took risks where the big networks wouldn’t even go near in order to add something new.
The five-minute warning was contentious, but you only have to look at the semi-final between West Coast and Carlton. Everyone watching, whether being at the ground or at home, felt the same thing because no-one knew the time left.
But Ten’s biggest contribution to the game was its hiring of non-egotistical commentators. Where Nine/Fox/Seven had personality issues within its commentary, Ten’s experts and commentators were all about the game.
To the network, the biggest stars were the ones on the field not the ones in the box. Stephen Quatermain, Anthony Hudson and Tim Lane are good commentators, who injected passion and new voices into a game that had become stagnant in its coverage.
But money talks and with Ten making losses, it became time to pull the plug.
For Christian, Blight Quatermain and Walls, their time in television is over for at least five years.
Hudson, Darcy, Lloyd and Lane will be in demand by other networks and are likely to be snapped up.
Channel Seven returns to being the only broadcast network televising AFL and has a big job to ensure it keeps up the work that Channel Ten did.
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