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On Friday night, the launch of Foxtel’s Fox Footy Channel will herald the start of a strategic three-prong attack for AFL and TV ratings in 2012.
Firstly, the AFL finally goes live into its main market on Friday nights. The NRL has been going live at 7:30pm for a couple of years to boost its ratings.
The demand for live up to date information combined with the introduction of smart phones has taken its toll on delayed TV. Not only is the game half over by the time it goes to air, the broadcast would often finish at 11:30pm most Fridays. Many fans have simply sought access elsewhere by both legal (radio) and illegal (internet streaming) means.
The AFL has also re-built the marquee status of the Friday night football and fixtured the better drawing teams to maximise its ratings, something its competitor has been able to do with it’s six-week rolling fixture by ensuring form teams and bigger drawing clubs play on Friday nights. I would expect the AFL’s ratings to improve overall as a result of live Friday night football.
The second prong is Foxtel and the resurrection of Fox Footy. It is, however, in name only that Fox Footy returns as the programming has been dramatically improved with access to all games live and in HD.
The previous incarnation of Fox Footy could only show replays of games – this is massive difference from last time. Fox Footy in comparison was also poorly promoted and in the main presented by mostly fringe commentators, the exception the late, great Clinton Grybas.
Fox Footy also promotes the AFL to other subscribers like never before and has been receiving heavy promotion from Foxtel across multiple media platforms. This would be something the other codes can only dream about. A dedicated channel is a dream for the AFL.
The final prong is the introduction of the ninth game, which increases the total games broadcast and introduces an additional NSW and Queensland team to the AFL for those markets. I see the ninth game as a longer term boost than a short-term benefit.
Whilst AFL’s ratings have declined from the heady days of the Swans and Lions, the impact of those two teams winning boosted the overall ratings result for AFL over the long-term.
Gold Coast and GWS are primed to move up the ladder in the next two to three years. Success means a bandwagon and that improves TV ratings in non traditional markets. It’s no coincidence the highest TV ratings for an AFL grand final both featured the Sydney Swans.
Thus addition of the two new teams gives the AFL a longer term boost towards the end of the current rights period, setting the game up for the next period.
Live football, a dedicated football channel and expansion its not a bad formula to increase overall TV ratings.