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The AFL announced today that it had reached a three year deal (2012-2014) with Fox Sports for weekly AFL coverage on FOX Soccer Plus (FSP).  FSP is the subscription channel counterpart to Fox Soccer (formerly Fox Soccer Channel and before that Fox Sports World).  The cost will be $14.99 a month and FSP is available to customers of DirecTV, DISH, Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-verse, most Time-Warner and Brighthouse cable systems, Cablevision, Cox, BlueRidge, Bendbroadband, SureWest, FullChannel, Frontier, and RCN cable.  The AFL was unable to come to a deal with ESPN for continued coverage on their outlets.  Coverage will be two live matches per week typically (will vary occasionally) plus all finals live. The AFL Winners weekly highlight show will be available on FSP also. AFANA will post more detailed schedules in the next few days and update all of our TV pages to reflect this change in coverage. (TV pages have been updated)  Canadian TV coverage will remain on TSN2 with one live match per week.  (Addendum: 03/23/12: MHz has confirmed they will continue coverage this season with games on Monday nights at 10:00 PM EDT, repeated on Saturdays at 4:00 AM EDT.  Matches will be edited to 2 hrs and they will not carry the highlights programs ("AFL Winners") this season on Saturdays. Also, FSP on some Time Warner systems which offer the Sports Pass package of channels,  FSP will be just $5.99 -- price may vary slightly in some areas.)

The press release from Fox Sports (in part) reads as follows: 
"FOX Soccer Plus, America’s premium television network dedicated to delivering the world’s best soccer and international sports, is the new U.S. television home of the Australian Football League. With origins dating back to 1858, the AFL is Australia’s most-attended domestic sporting competition and the highest level of Australian Rules Football in the world.

This exclusive media rights agreement brings coverage of live matches to FOX Soccer Plus beginning March 24, lasting through the 2014 season. Additionally, the network is carrying the AFL’s showcase event, the Grand Final, in September live from the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

“The Australian Football League is one of the world’s unique sporting spectacles, and Australia’s most popular domestic competition,” said David Nathanson, General Manager of FOX Soccer.

“We are proud to bring fans across the United States access to this exciting game, with rivalries and traditions that match the passion of other elite leagues on our family of networks.”

AFL Chief Operating Officer, Gillon McLachlan echoes Nathanson’s sentiment regarding this landmark partnership, “The AFL is thrilled to announce a three-year partnership with FOX Soccer Plus in the United States that will see unprecedented live coverage of our game across the Premiership Season, Finals Series and Grand Final."

Combined with FOX Soccer Plus’ recent acquisition of Australia’s National Rugby League, the AFL agreement gives fans access to the most exciting sporting properties of the Southern Hemisphere. FOX Soccer Plus’ first AFL contest takes place on Saturday, March 24 when GWS Giants host Sydney Swans (4:00 a.m. ET). Coverage continues on Friday, March 30 as Hawthorn plays Collingwood (4:30 a.m. ET).

FOX Soccer Plus is carrying two AFL matches per week throughout the season, along with weekly hour-long highlight shows to recap each round of play."

We did want to point out that there is nothing "unprecedented" about this coverage despite what is stated in the press release.  More extensive live coverage was available on Setanta Sports US before it failed.  AFANA recognizes that not all fans will be pleased with the coverage on FSP as it is isn't available on many cable systems. We also realize that the return to a subscription service will not please everyone.  However, it was this or nothing in 2012. Coverage will continue to be available on LiveSport.tv (which has the LiveAFL.tv service).  The fate of coverage on MHz Networks is unclear. 

Article last changed on Sunday, April 22, 2012 - 12:44 PM EDT


Comments

Posted by BlueBlazerIrregular (not verified) on March 16, 2012

This is a HUGE step backwards. Footy goes from three live games a week on what was basically a free service to two games a week on pay service that is owned by one of the most despicable men on the planet. Rupert Murdoch will never see a dime of my money. Plus, AFLlive.TV has raised it's prices which I wouldn't have a problem with if the stream quality wasn't so low you wonder why you are paying for it and not watching free streams. To say I am disappointed is an understatement.
Posted by admincms on March 16, 2012

Hi Blue,

AFANA does appreciate, as we've said, that this isn't going to be everyone's preferred solution. Sadly, it was this or nothing. Obviously, you would choose nothing.  As I said elsewhere, to quote the old TV adverts for cars, "your mileage may vary".  In 17 years of AFANA, I've never seen a solution that made everyone happy.  The opinions in this thread bear witness to that.

I understand why some people have issues with FOX and their parent company.  Everyone has to place a value (financial, moral, etc) on where they spend their money.  For some fans, $1.87 a match is not worth it.  I get that.  Of course, the average cable charge for ESPN, buried in your bill, is between $4.50 and $7.50 a month. 

Am I safe in assuming therefore that you don't subscribe to any cable package including a FOX channel? That must have been difficult to achieve.  Keep in mind that every channel in every package probably gets something of your cable or satellite dollar. 

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by admincms on March 18, 2012

Hi Heath,

To say the AFL doesn't care is simply false.  Do they understand how to market the game here the way they should? Probably not.  Do they do a good job of growing the audience here? Historically, no.  To say they don't care though attributes something to them that isn't true, even a little. 

As to the deal, I will say it one more time:  it's not what I would want but it was the only offer on the table.  In other words, no other network was interested or willing to make a better offer.  Not ESPN.  Not CBS.  Not NBC.  Not TBS.  Not a n y o n e!  If they didn't make this deal, your coverage this year was LiveAFL.tv and maybe, if they continue, MHz Networks.

So tell me what you would have the AFL do?  What should AFANA recommend to them?

(And please don't tell me "give it away".  They tried that.  Networks don't value what they don't pay for and they bury the product.)

Regards,

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by admincms on March 16, 2012

Hi MGLF,

You can't figure it out because that isn't known at this point.  My best guess is no because Telstra owns the worldwide rights to the AFL on the internet.  For which they paid an estimated A$125 million. 

I'd like to be wrong but so far no one at the AFL or FOX has said one way or the other. Once we know, we'll let everyone else know.

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

I for one will NOT be paying Fox Soccer Plus $14.99/month to watch 2 games a week (especially as I'll be lucky to see my team play more than 2 or 3 times during the season.) Much as I love Aussie Rules I'm on a fixed income and can't afford it. Someone should get the message through to the people who run the AFL that this is no way to implement and support the "international development strategy" they are so fond of talking about.

Disgusted.

Posted by admincms on March 18, 2012

Hi Barrie,

I appreciate that for some, even $14.99 a month (that's $1.87 a game or less in a 5 week month) is too difficult.  I suspect for most people in that situation paying ESPN the $4.50 to $7.50 they extract from your cable company (and by extension you the fan), is too much also and they didn't get the coverage last year either.

I will tell you what I said in reply to your e-mail:  This was not the deal the AFL was hoping for but in the end, all they could get. In fairness to the AFL, Fox Sports Plus was the only offer on the table. Since no deal could be reached with ESPN and other possible networks including NBC Sports and CBS Sports said no, it was this or nothing for at least a year. We had the same subscription TV situation with Setanta Sports from 2006 to mid-2009.  NRL fans are facing the same deal.

It comes down to where each fan places footy in their value scheme. You and only you can decide what footy is worth to you.

As for the international development strategy, if you read the AFL's documents on that, TV is central to that in North America.  Easy to do? No. Going the way AFANA wants?  No.  We have to deal with reality though and right now the AFL games are not high value properties here.  I wrote on this site back in 2001 and in a presentation to the AFL the next year that the future of live coverage in the US was pay per view.  Oh, the howls of the skeptics.  I was right.  Without better ratings or a big sponsor this or internet coverage is all you will get offered by US sports networks at this time.   

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Hi Rob. Please don't get me wrong - we all appreciate the work you have done over the years to keep us on the air.

I don't know if your comparison to us having to pay ESPN to have them included in our various TV packages is a valid one - all ESPN channels are bundled into every single Verizon and Comcast package and you can't split them out even if you wanted to. A better comparison is the one with Speed (which is also owned by Fox) and is bundled with Verizon but an option with Comcast for $7.50/month.

I love ESPN3, which is free to anyone with a Verizon internet package (don't know about Comcast.) And, I have a contact there who was working on the Samsung ESPN3 widget to give us direct access via our internet enabled TVs. He said he did some preliminary checking and assured me that ESPN3 wanted the AFL back. So I don't know where negotiations broke down however I have my suspicions.

It's all a moot point anyway because my wife knows how much I love Aussie Rules and is giving me a seasons subscription for my birthday next month.

Keep up the good work.

Barrie

Posted by admincms on March 20, 2012

Thanks, Barrie.

I'll stick with my comparison because it emphasizes the point I was trying to make. ESPN is not free.  Just because they roll it into your cable or satellite bill and you can't avoid it doesn't mean you aren't paying for it. 

As we said to fans, we believed ESPN did want to continue.  We believe the AFL wanted them to continue.  Just because both sides wanted this does not mean an agreement was possible.  As I've also said here and on Facebook, sometimes two sides in a negotiation may want a deal that does not mean they have the same goals or expectations.  Anyone who has been married should know that.  :-)

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Hate to bring this up at this late stage but before I sign up with FSP I'll need some evidence that they are going to deliver against what they promised.  Their scheduling is almost impossible to decipher however it appears to me that, at least as far out as they have anything on their website, there is only ONE live game a week scheduled?  I think we'd all appreciate anything you can do Rob to keep Murdoch's people honest (if that's possible.)

Barrie

Posted by Ralph on April 09, 2012

I started my subscription to Fox Sports Plus on the news.  My quibble on watching the  West Coast/Melbourne match: The channel ended the transmission before the iconic singing of the team song in the locker room.  Please educate them on its importance.  Thanks.

Posted by Gerry D on April 09, 2012

Yeah, the team song would be nice...assuming the dreary Freo one has been reborn in the Ross L era. <g>  Certainly, though, they've faithfully brought back discussion and pre-game that ESPN sadly lacked.. One general tip, last night being a perfect example. We can't invariably stay up to 3-4 am with a work-day following. Hence, we all will tape the game,watch it later..or catch the 1st half, then tape the rest.  FOX SOCCER PLUS ending times VERY unreliable. Tape the following show too...you'll often find the 4th quarter there, rather than be frustrated at missing it

Gerry

Posted by admincms on April 09, 2012

Hi Gerry,

You make a good point that it always pays to set your recording to go a bit longer than the listed times.  This covers unforeseen events.  The folks who provide the schedules that appear in on-screen guides and thus drive DVRs and similar devices do a generally poor job at making late updates and the cable and satellite providers often update the devices just once a day so any late change wouldn't be reflected anyway. 

As to FSP ending times being unreliable, that's a bit premature to conclude after 4 matches with 3 ending as scheduled.  So far, I've noticed one time that was wrong and that was because the telecast was scheduled wrong to begin with.  All AFL telecasts on FSP should have a 3 hour window for live coverage.  If you ever see anything else, be prepared for a surprise!  It's only week 2 and we suspect the scheduling still hasn't settled down and the people doing it haven't learned what to expect yet.  It should improve over time. 

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by admincms on April 09, 2012

Hi Ralph,

We can try but please don't expect they will overrun a telecast just so you can see players singing a song, no matter how important it is to fans of AFL teams.  Sometimes we just have to be thankful for what we have and bear with the minor inconveniences.  I'd like to think they would never cut off a live feed but realistically when the local stations in the US cutoff network feeds of post-game events in the NFL, NCAA, etc. you can't expect it won't happen to the AFL sometimes.  Annoying and disappointing: yes; unexpected: no. 

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by admincms on March 21, 2012

Hi Barrie,

We will be posting the schedule as we receive it.  We already have a partial schedule for the first couple of rounds.  Keep in mind that Round 1 is split across two weekends with weekday games, too.  We have no reason to expect they will not average 2 games per week over the course of the next 6 months.  Patience.  With a contract barely completed this week, they haven't had time to finalize 26 weeks of schedule.

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by Josh (not verified) on April 17, 2012

I have read a few posts, and must agree that ESPN3 was far superior for several reasons. The on demand feature, the quality and length of coverage, the number of games, and the fact that ESPN is included in cable packages to name a few. Now Rob I know you will try to make those of us that are upset over the $15 look cheap and petty but your rationalization to the FSP subscription is a bit skewed, I look it as my team may be be shown only once if at all, so $15 on top of what I pay for cable for once or worse not getting to see my team is not the $1.87 you try to make it look to be. Further more the fact that FSP has only live options for footy but has on demand option for other sports is a bit of a slap in the face to AFL. I just wish I had read better reviews about liveAFL.tv feed, I would much prefer to pay that, then pay fox for their apparent b*st*rd child station. Very disappointing for such a great sport, and previously fantastic coverage and availability.
Posted by admincms on April 18, 2012

I'm sure Josh that ESPN3 was better for you but please do not put words in my mouth.  I never called anyone "cheap and petty" and please do not suggest that I did.  Yes, some things were better on ESPN3 but some things are better on FSP.  Some aspects of Setanta coverage was better and before that some things on FSC/FSW, etc. etc.  I don't ever dispute that some deals are better for some fans but I do dispute the incessant doom and gloom. 

I will repeat what I have said over and over again.  "Your mileage may vary."  That means that what works for you doesn't necessarily work for others and vice-versa.  The fact is that you do not get AFL coverage of just "your team".  It is not that way in Australia and it is not that way here. It's not that way for the NFL or NBA or MLS anymore.  You might get more of your team on a local channel or more Yankees on their club owned YES channel but you cannot expect to get only what you want and not what anyone else wants on national coverage in the USA of an Australian sport.  Thus you are paying for every match on ESPN3 or FSP or Setanta or FSC or FSW or ESPN2 (and that is going back to 1996 only).  As for the superior availability, would you mind if I forwarded every complaint e-mail since 2009 AFANA got from fans who didn't have access to ESPN3 because their ISP wouldn't do a deal with Disney Corp?  That would cover about 40% of the US footy population.  My point is that there is no perfect solution.  Whether I like ESPN3 or FSP is not a factor.  I push the AFL to do what is in the best interests of the most fans whenever possible, and when not, to get the best deal we can with whomever that is. 

When the day comes that we have on-demand coverage of every match and I hope it does, then we can only watch "our club".  I'm just happy we have any coverage at all.  The battle to keep the sport on the air here the past 17 years has been long and hard.  You have no idea of the thousands of hours that volunteers here at AFANA have put in to see that happen.  Very few of you have ever donated to us.  If you have, you get my and all of AFANA's gratitude but most fans never help pay the costs of what we do. 

If I took the messages here and replaced ESPN and FSP with Setanta and ESPN you would have the same discussion we had here in 2009.  If I did it in 2006 you could do it with Setanta and Fox Soccer Channel/Fox Sports World.  Ditto 1998, 1996 and so on. No coverage we get will EVER make ALL of you happy.  I long ago gave up on that. 

There is "no slap in the face" to the AFL.  It's about rights and contracts.  Unless you know something I don't about the AFL-FSP contract then we have no evidence that FSP even has rights to show the game on-demand.  I think the secondary rights are held by MHz Network and the worldwide internet and repeat rights are held by the Telstra/Perform Ltd/LiveSport.tv people. 

As to your team being shown once, if at all, I sure as heck hope not!  With 46 main draw matches to be aired and 8 finals (that is 108 slots divided by 18 clubs ~= to 6 slots each), I will be very disappointed if every AFL club doesn't appear at least 3 or 4 times.  I get messages every week asking why match X between clubs A and B isn't the one shown that week.  Every one of the clubs has fans here and I tell the AFL and networks that OVER and OVER.  Trust me, they are sick of hearing me say it.  If, at the end of the season, there are clubs that aired only once or twice, we will complain.  We do every time it happens regardless of which clubs are being ignored. 

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by admincms on March 16, 2012

Hi Marc,

The timing of the games has nothing to do with what FOX wants.  The games are live and with the time difference that is when they occur down under.  See our front page article, now about half way down the page, regarding the AFL draw in 2012 and the dearth of afternoon matches. 

While we would like to see repeats in better time slots, the live matches are when they are. The AFL won't change them to accomodate US audiences.  It's what I have a DVR for...  Your mileage may vary..

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

I just spent a couple of hours watching highlight videos, game commentary, etc on http://www.afl.livesport.tv/ - great coverage and its FREE. Based on what I've seen so far we are in for a year of fantastic football (especially if, like me, you're a sandgrouper.)  I just wish Juddie had stayed out west - what a player.

Posted by admincms on March 17, 2012

Note to readers:

If you login first, your comments appear immediately.  If you do not, your comment goes into moderation until one of the site admins can approve it  This can take a few hours or up to a day or more.

To login, you will need to register first, if you have not already done so  You can do that by using the link in the login box on the inside right column on any page.  Please follow the directions carefully. Registrations with obviously misleading information or invalid e-mail addresses are promptly deleted.  Users receive only 2 to 3 e-mails per year from us unless they choose to receive updates whenever new articles or posts appear. 

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

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