The Seven and Ten Networks are determined to show all eight AFL games live each weekend under the new broadcasting contract next year if Foxtel doesn’t come up with an acceptable deal. Both networks say they have constructed a schedule with the AFL (and the V8 Supercars in the case of Seven) that will enable all games to be shown live. Foxtel’s continuing refusal to do a deal at a satisfactory price means it is in danger of losing the AFL and Fox Sports, half-owned by PBL and News Ltd, faces the prospect of having an unprofitable scheduling hole in the autumn and winter of 2007. Complicating the matter is the way the AFL interprets the contract which prevents Seven from restarting its old C7 Pay TV channel, or a newer version of it, and broadcasting the games. Both Seven and Ten say they have completed a schedule which covers eight games, four games each next season. The profit margins will be thin, cost control will be important but the two networks now believe they can do it. Advertisers would like this because it would give them more exposure to the AFL audiences on the biggest audience pulling outlets, FTA channels and not Pay TV channels. In today’s Age the head of the AFL said: “We are preparing the fixture (for next year) on the basis all eight games will be shown on free-to-air television,” said Demetriou. “I fully believe that will be the outcome. I’ve believed that for weeks now and I don’t see any indication that an agreement will go ahead with Foxtel. We have no issue with that.” Both Ten and Seven say there will be no clashes on Saturday nights or at other times, Seven claims it will broadcast live into northern markets on Friday nights (that will be a big ouch). Seven will have two games on a Sunday. There is the option of the twilight game in Melbourne on Sunday. It is highly likely the AFL coverage in Sydney could end up on the SBS (which would also cover Brisbane) or in Sydney it might go to the newly revamped community TV channel, Channel 31 (which happens to be run by a former senior executive at Seven). There is a chance that it could go to the SKY racing channel or a foreign Pay TV operator such as ESPN. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners:
A comfortable win to Nine off the back of the Terri Irwin interview which averaged 2.514 million people for the Network last night. It ran from 8.30pm to around 9.40pm. Second was Ten’s Thank God You’re Here with 1.703 million, then Seven’s Home and Away (1.405 million) and Ten’s NCIS (1.348 million). Seven News was 5th with 1.305 million, followed by Nine News (1.297 million) and Seven’s The Force (1.247 million), just ahead of Nine’s McLeod’s Daughters (1.233 million), A Current Affair (1.230 million) and Today Tonight (1.221 million). Seven’s Bones, shifted into 8.30pm against the Irwin Interview was “buried” and averaged only 742,000, just in front of Nine’s departing Rome, which had 721,000 – it will replaced next week by Survivor: Cook Island, which is a contrived competition of different “tribes” based on racial differences. How puerile?

The Losers: Bert’s Family Feud remained under 600,000 viewers with 592,000 but Deal or No Deal remained under 800,000 with 760,000 which would be more worrying to Seven. Ten News at Five easily won the hour with 855,000. The Sopranos, as good as it is, lost a lot of viewers last night, 373,000 was the average, down from the 460,000 for the start of the new series a week ago. It was hurt by Rome, which last night verged on the bodice ripping hysterical. The movie Kill Bill, Vol 1 on Seven at 9.30 pm averaged 568,000. Poor.

News & CA: Seven News won by 8,000 nationally and 105,000 in Perth, Seven News won Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. Nine News won Sydney and Brisbane. ACA beat TT by 9,000 nationally. ACA won Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, TT won Adelaide and Perth. Ten News was solid, as was the ABC, The 7.30 Report ran up against another hit on Ten and averaged 789,000. Today beat Sunrise and Early Today had more viewers than either early Today or Today from 7am.

The Stats: Nine won with a share of 31.6% (25.2%) from Ten with 26.2% (30.3%), Seven with 23.6% (24.7%) the ABC with 14.8% (15.9% ) and SBS with 3.8% (3.4%). Nine won all markets bar Perth where Seven won. Odd how the Irwin Interview just didn’t do it for Nine over there like it did on the East Coast. In regional areas Nine won through affiliates, WIN/NBN with 35.1% from Southern Cross (Ten) with 24.6%, Seven’s Prime and 7Qld with 22.5%, the ABC with 14.2% and SBS with 3.5%. Seven leads the week 28.0% to 27.8% but Nine will move to the front with the mega AFL and NRL Footy Shows tonight from 8.30pm.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Australian TV viewers proved last night what a discerning lot they are, despite claims to the contrary by a raft of criticism and commentators who don’t watch and understand TV. At 7pm the young ones gave Seven’s Home and Away an unusually high audience number (must be school hols) and then at 7.30pm more than 1.7 million tuned in to Ten’s funny and original Thank God You’re Here. They also watched McLeod’s and The Force on Nine and Seven respectively from 7.30pm in roughly average numbers and then at 8.30pm they switched in large numbers to watch the Ray Martin interview with Terry Irwin. That averaged more than 2.5 million (the Beaconsfield Miners, 2.7 million), then at around 9.30 to 9.40pm they bolted for the other channels or bed: Nine’s program Rome averaged just 721,000 (14,000 more than the poor first ep last week), but nearly 1.8 million people didn’t want to watch the dross that Rome is. Ten cleverly ran dead with a repeat of House and Seven burnt off an episode of Bones. Ten won from 9.45pm onwards with a new episode of NCIS. Viewers clearly watched what they wanted to and not what the desperate networks had told them to watch.

Peter Fray

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