Nick Place
at the Crikey sports desk

Weekend Australian’s
John Lehmann wrote a solid
on Saturday, explaining the major hurdles facing Seven and Ten, and the AFL, because of alleged
coverage pledges in the northern states and the ongoing pay TV-Seven stoush.

What caught our eye was this:

The Weekend Australian
understands that the Seven-Ten team must satisfy the AFL Commission within 120 days that it can meet a
series of scheduling commitments.

The Seven-Ten team welded
itself to these commitments by matching the deal put to the AFL by Nine’s owner PBL in the days before

The deal was crafted by a
small team of PBL executives with the knowledge that Seven and Ten would be
forced to match it to secure the rights.

As high-level sources
revealed in The Australian
on Thursday, Seven and Ten have committed to having Friday night games –
traditionally the highest rating in the home and away season – shown live

So even if the local teams
are not playing in the two northern markets – Sydney and Brisbane – Seven and
Ten must ensure they are available live.

Seven and Ten refuse to confirm this commitment.

Oh, to be a fly on boardroom walls about
now. One twist in the debate came from an AFL writer who has lived
in Sydney. Speaking to Crikey, the writer made the point that the AFL might not actually
want the game shown live on free-to-air commercial TV in those time slots,
despite the huffing and puffing currently going on.

With regard to AFL’s credibility and
ambitions to be seen as a heavyweight sport in those states, is rating third and
finishing behind SBS on a regular basis better for the code than beaming live
on Foxtel, or another pay TV option? It’s not just Seven and Ten sweating on a
potential ratings disaster in prime time.

Any way you look at it, the AFL has finally broken
free of Nine’s existing demand that it gets to show the Friday night AFL game first, and when
it chooses to, meaning northerners have been actively stopped from seeing it
until after the NRL commitments are finished.