On Friday the 17th of February, to coincide with the commencement of the pre-season NAB Cup, Foxtel will launch a new AFL-dedicated channel called Fox Footy, which will prove to be the equivalent of heaven on earth for AFL fans.
Technically, the channel is being relaunched, as it previously existed from 2002 to 2006. However, with Foxtel’s new AFL TV rights deal, the channel is being brought back from the dead, bigger and better than ever.
Central to the channel’s offering will be the live coverage of every single game of the home-and-away season. With the addition of the Greater Western Sydney Giants to the competition this year, that will equate to nine live games, every single round.
For the first time ever, fans in South Australia and Western Australia will be able to watch Friday night games live.
Yet the good news for AFL fans doesn’t stop there.
The games will not be interrupted by ad breaks. So when Buddy Franklin kicks a freaky goal, instead of watching a Channel Seven promo for Home and Away, you’ll be viewing an instant replay whilst listening to the commentator’s reaction and analysis.
The games will also be broadcast in the coverage they deserve, high definition, something Channel Seven has failed to do in the past.
The new channel will boast an impressive line-up of commentators and analysts, including Mike Sheehan, Eddie McGuire, Gerard Healy, Paul Roos, Jason Dunstall, Anthony Hudson, Dermott Brereton, Dwayne Russell, Matthew Campbell, Wayne Schwass, Brad Johnson, Alastair Lynch, Tony Shaw, Liam Pickering, David King, Danny Frawley, Leigh Colbert, Mark Ricciuto and Glen Jackovich.
Ensuring the impressive experience and knowledge of that line-up is utilised to its full potential, apart from the games themselves, the channel will also broadcast popular panel and magazine-style shows like AFL 360, On the Couch, AFL Insider, League Teams, After the Bounce, Open Mike, etc.
The channel will no doubt also screen some classic games from the AFL archives, which always prove to be a hit with viewers.
Personally, the most impressive aspect of the new channel is the fact it’s 24 hours a day.
As any fan of any sport will tell you, you’re a fan 24/7, not just on the weekends. The announcement that the channel won’t ‘stop’ clearly indicates that Foxtel really understands footy and really understands its fans.
Quite simply, Foxtel’s AFL coverage will be the greatest any sport has ever received in Australia.
Sounds too good to be true? Waiting for the catch?
Well the most obvious drawback is that Foxtel is obviously a pay-TV provider, so the coverage isn’t free. But providing you can afford to fork out for Foxtel, the negatives almost completely finish there.
AFL fans have long complained about the treatment the code gets from free-to-air networks, particularly Channel Seven. Luckily for footy fans, free-to-air stations and pay-TV have different masters.
Commercial networks make their money from advertising revenue, so their business model dictates that the advertisers are their customers, not viewers.
Pay-TV, on the other hand, makes the majority of their money from subscribers. So for Foxtel, the viewer is king. It’s a fact Foxtel clearly appreciates, as evidenced by their amazing coverage of the AFL.
Having 24/7 access to a sport, and showing every game live, obviously increases the amount of contact fans can have with the sport. There is little doubt that hardcore AFL fans will now be in heaven, and even more loyal to the code they love.
Meanwhile, casual fans may potentially now elevate AFL up their rankings of sports that they love to watch. Likewise for those who currently follow the AFL infrequently, or not at all.
This is a fact not lost on the AFL or Foxtel. In fact, I’m sure that’s their exact strategy.
In the game of chess that is the Australian sporting landscape, the AFL’s intent is clear.
Cricket, football, rugby league, etc, it’s your move.
And it better be a good one.