Poor old Foxtel! The sense of paranoia is rising as the ripples continue to spread from the apparent collapse of negotiations over the broadcasting of AFL games from next year.

Foxtel CEO, Kim Williams, is insisting that the best Foxtel could offer was the $45 million it offered the Nine Network as part of the latter’s failed bid to retain the free to air rights on its own at the end of last year. He told journalists at the Oxford Business Alumni function in Sydney last Thursday night that there “was no $60 million deal” with Nine and that Seven/Ten were being misleading in claiming that such an amount was offered.

He also told other media that Foxtel would take on the AFL with soccer, rugby union and the NRL next year, but soccer is a summer sport in Australia, all rugby union tests will be seen on Seven next year and the NRL is also on Nine which will broadcast three games a weekend, including two on Friday night. None of these match the AFL for popularity in southern states and while Foxtel claims that people do not subscribe primarily for the sport, it is interesting to note that 39 of its top 40 programs are sport related and overwhelmingly NRL and AFL games and shows.

Now the V8 Supercar organisation has weighed in to have a go at Foxtel with boss Tony Cochrane saying Foxtel will be dead in two years if it doesn’t bite the bullet and buy the AFL games. That’s a bit rich as the Supercars broadcasts are on Seven next year and face scheduling problems if the AFL is only on Free-To-Air TV.

Only the Seven Network’s C7 legal case in the Federal Court comes near to the intransigence and venom that the Foxtel brawl is generating. And that’s the key: Seven Network and Kerry Stokes has upset and ruffled a lot of people at PBL, News, Foxtel, the AFL and other media groups by pursuing the C7 case. That’s the biggest stumbling block to a resolution of the Foxtel/AFL deal.

Peter Fray

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