As the
C7 case between the Seven Network and the
rest of the Australian media over the present AFL contract is fought out in the Federal Court, the new
contract is starting to produce some startling alliances.

Seven
has already seduced Ten, a defendant in the C7 case, to join it for the new deal due to start in
2007. And now
the battle over the AFL broadcasting rights is about to be complicated by a
link-up between the Nine Network and SBS, if current negotiations are concluded
successfully.

Nine is
understood to be talking to the ethnic broadcaster about taking the GTV signal
on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons and
broadcasting it throughout NSW and Queensland, including both capital cities.

Under its new NRL deal, Nine will broadcast two NRL games into
Sydney on its free-to-air network on Friday nights: with coverage
running from 7.30pm to around midnight. With that sort of commitment,
any AFL game would get buried in the deep of night in Sydney, which has
become more important to the AFL after the Swans premiership win
this year.

Nine
will still broadcast one AFL game into northern markets on Sunday afternoon, but has to televise an NRL game at 4pm. The
second AFL game will therefore be available in both northern markets
via SBS.

The
funding of the deal for SBS is uncertain: but it has been pointed out that
the Federal Government’s $4.7 million grant this year (and a promise to continue
it into future years) could help finance the expense. From
Nine’s point of view, a deal with SBS will enable them
to argue to the AFL that its increased rugby league coverage will not affect the
Network’s plans for the AFL.

Peter Fray

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