It was with some astonishment that I read a report in yesterday’s Australian by Jane Schulze which said the AFL was working with “the cash strapped pay-TV group Foxtel” to help it schedule seven games to be shown exclusively on its Fox Footy Channel.
“With only one exclusive match on Fox Footy last year, the channel continued to fail as a driver of pay-TV subscriptions, despite the annual $35 million cost for the AFL pay-TV rights,” she said before going on to say that Fox Sports, like the Fox Footy Channel (which is jointly owned by The Australian’s owner, News Limited and Nine’s owner PBL), is seeking “exclusive access to at least one game played by a Melbourne-based team in any deal it may agree with the AFL”.
But Shultz has fundamentally misunderstood the current Fox Footy Channel’s AFL rights. There’s not one exclusive game on Fox Footy each week over 22 rounds in 2004 as reported: there’s three a week for all 22 weeks! In fact there’s been 66 such “exclusive” games every season since 2002, until the current agreement ends in 2006.