While Nine CEO David Gyngell sticks to
his corporate script by claiming his network has yet to be convinced it
should bid for the next AFL TV rights, tonight’s AFL season opener
between Brisbane and St Kilda should remind him why dummy spitting is
usually restricted to losers – and the game hasn’t even started.

The
AFL and Nine’s now traditional Easter Thursday Brisbane home game
blockbuster sees the faded Collingwood replaced by new glamour team St
Kilda, and with a 38,000 Gabba full house guaranteed, any TV executive
who doesn’t think at a minimum that the Queensland sporting market
isn’t already won over by the Lions den must live in Sydney. Certainly
Ten’s Brisbane management doesn’t need to read its cue cards to know
it’s on a winner with the Lions with its scheduling of a minimum 17
live Brisbane games going into Queensland on Saturday nights this
season. The AFL is already dining out on that one.

But wait,
there’s more. Ten Brisbane is also showing the Melbourne v Essendon MCG
game live at 6.30pm on Saturday evening in another first that rams home
the Brisbane station’s longer term thinking about consolidating its AFL
branding, now made even more vital by Ten’s new partnership with Seven
to win the next broadcast rights from 2007 onwards.

Unfortunately
Nine Sydney is dragging the chain as usual and will show tonight’s
blockbuster on replay at 11.30pm. Perhaps Red Bull should be sponsoring
this slot! Clearly Sydney has not got with the program as the AFL looks
for Nine to give the code greater priority in 2005. But hold on what’s
this? Ten Sydney is also reaching for the Easter replay button where my
schedule suggests Ten isn’t staging its first league game this weekend
until 11.10pm on Saturday night when it’s likely to be the evening’s
earlier MCG clash.

As for the rest of the weekend depending on
which state you are in, also working out the Fox Footy schedule can
require forensic skills beyond many of us.

Sure the consortium might be offering more AFL than ever before but
as the AFL fans in Sydney and Canberra will particularly attest now
into their fourth season of TV scheduling lunacy, trying to catch live
games let alone see your favourite team in action remains one of life’s
great lotteries!

Yet it could be worse – you could be a NRL fan who is really getting the thin end of the wedge on free-to-air.

Peter Fray

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