The AFL will be broadcast live on free to air TV after Seven and Ten decided who would broadcast the finals and Brownlow presentations earlier today.

The talks failed because PBL and James Packer would not allow Foxtel management to offer any more than the $45 million, topped up with $5 million a year from Austar.

Seven and Ten will broadcast all eight games live: Foxtel, and more importantly, Fox Sports will not have any games to sell advertising, subscriptions and a base from which to sell the new Fox Sports 3 channel to commercial users in pubs and clubs for 2007.

This morning I hear that Ten and Seven tossed a coin. Ten won and picked up the 2007 Grand Final, Seven gets the Brownlow Medal in the week before the Grand Final and the pre-season finals earlier next year.

Where there are head to head games scheduled on Saturday nights, it appears the AFL will try to stagger starting times to limit overlap: games may start earlier on Saturday afternoons and later on Saturday nights by up to an hour.

Foxtel management will also come under pressure from next year from some of its channels because of a slowing or falling growth in pay TV subscriber numbers will mean lower revenues for those channels. Fox Sports will be affected here as well.

The upshot of the Foxtel negotiations is that News, Telstra and Austar want to do more but James Packer won’t budge and won’t approve a higher price. PBL, News and Telstra all have to agree on the new price and he has the right of veto.

That’s why the anti-siphoning rules changes are a joke: Foxtel wouldn’t be able to show any of these extra sports because James Packer could theoretically veto their purchase because they are too expensive and not profitable according to the TV-ignorant ideas at PBL headquarters.

But Nine and PBL will continue to shuffle off to Fox Sports the minor rounds of Wimbledon and the Masters Golf and any other sports Packer deems too unprofitable. That’s what happened this year and that’s what happened with the domestic One Day cricket competition.

The ongoing negotiations for the AFL pay TV rights showed the folly of having a monopoly Pay TV operator and one that can be dominated by one group which is still miffed at Seven and Ten for buying the rights and playing hardball.

The AFL only has itself to blame in adopting the structure of the Nine-Foxtel bid that Seven matched. The AFL forced Seven and Ten to accept that and the code is now stuck with the intransigence of Packer and his minions. No wonder the AFL has warned Foxtel that it might not get a look in 2012. That will mean Nine won’t have a chance either.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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