History of Australian rules football on U. S. television

daddyodilly's picture

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Does there exist on this website or anywhere else an article that tells the history of U. S. television coverage of Australian rules football?  I first saw footy on TV very briefly in the 1990s on what I think was ESPN.  Then I saw a few highlight programs on Fox Sports around 2000.  Only last year, 2010, did I start seeing games weekly on MHz plus the few games on ESPN2 which is when I became hooked on the sport.  I am curious to learn how far back broadcast of games go on U. S. TV, which channels have carried games, and if current coverage compares favorably with past coverage.  Maybe just a bullet-point time line would tell the story.  I am curious to know what I've missed!

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admincms's picture

Re: History of Australian rules football on U. S. television

Hi daddyodilly,

It's been discussed on here and on our previous web sites but there isn't a link I could give you.  Here's a an off-the-top chronology for the US only:

Prior to 1980 the then VFL was occasionally seen in 10 to 60 second clips on ABC's Wide World of Sports when that program was on the air.

1980-1986 ESPN (Coverage dropped subsequent to Capital Cities / ABC buying ESPN. Early years had live or delayed full match coverage.  Later years had mostly delayed coverage except the Grand Final and with some highlights packages.)

1987 no coverage

1988-1995 regional sports networks affiliated with or taking programming from Prime Sports. (When Prime was purchased by what became Fox Sports Net the coverage was dropped. This was one hour highlights most weeks and a live Grand Final. AFANA was founded as an outgrowth of the fan movement on Usenet newsgroups to save TV coverage after Prime did not renew the rights.) 

1996-1997 ESPN2 (Coverage was picked up in June after a four month campaign by fans.  Grand Final in 1996 was produced and distributed nationally by satellite by AFANA and the Australian American Chamber of Commerce [Southern California] on 8 days notice when ESPN declined to air it.  In 1997, ESPN delayed the Grand Final by 95 minutes in a decision made just 30 hours before the match.  After this and other issues, the AFL declined to renew the deal with ESPN following the 1997 season.  The bad feelings between the two lasted for years.)

1998-2005 Fox Sports World (which later became Fox Soccer Channel and dropped the coverage.  The one hour highlights program was also on Fox Sports Net for all of 1998 and parts of 1999.)  MHz Networks started about this time initially with just one hour weekly highlights for their Washington DC broadcast station but later 2 hour condensed matches were added.  As they went national, coverage was available there, too.

2006-2009 Setanta Sports (Coverage started in June of 2006 and included 3 live games per week with promises of more but instead later decreased to only two per week.  Coverage ended in early August, 2009 when Setanta went into bankruptcy in the US.  Setanta was a pay only channel.   MHz has continued.

Aug. 2009-present ESPN360 (now ESPN3) and ESPN2 (Three weekly live matches via the online service and 4 matches live per season on ESPN2 as we have at present.)

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

daddyodilly's picture

Re: History of Australian rules football on U. S. television

Wow, Rob!  Thanks for the reply.  You know, those two games I saw long ago were probably on ESPN in the 1980s like you mention above.  I remember the goal umpires were still wearing the white shirts and jackets with neckties.  Amazing.

Bob's picture

Re: History of Australian rules football on U. S. television

So who's been watching the longest?  I started in 1992, but I know next to Rob I'm a relative newcomer.

Peter's picture

Re: History of Australian rules football on U. S. television

Dear Rob -- did you know that ESPN2 has been showing more than the 4 live games this season. There are 2 games scheduled to be on ESPN2 this weekend (pies v saints and crows v Roos) and the cats v hawks game next weekend. Not sure what is happening at ESPN HQ, but I'm not complaining! Just wanted to pass along. Keep up the good work. - Peter

admincms's picture

Re: History of Australian rules football on U. S. television

Peter,

Actually, we do know and our schedule did reflect this.  However, since we added those to the TV schedule page ESPN has subsequently informed the AFL and AFANA that they are removing them from the schedule. 

Two important points:  We do not add anything to the published schedule until both the network and the AFL have confirmed it.  In this case, it took several days after the rumors started to fly before we had any confirmation.  What we try to publish is only facts not rumor and this whole episode of "added matches" has been more rumor than fact.  The other point is that we warned people who were repeating this on our Facebook and Twitter pages that this was "bonus" coverage and subject to change and it has changed.  There is a long thread on our FB page about this.

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

lberns1's picture

Re: History of Australian rules football on U. S. television

Did they give a reason why?  Is there something pressing at 5:30 AM EDT that would cause ESPN to cancel them (you know, like a rerun of a rerun of a rerun of the 2010 Spelling Bee championships highlights)?

admincms's picture

Re: History of Australian rules football on U. S. television

The nominal reason for this weekend was the French Open. However, I don't think the addition or the cancellation had anything to do with a specific alternate program.  There are other factors at work here and it isn't something I'm prepared to discuss in a public forum just yet.  We need to let this all play out for a few weeks.   Sorry to be so cryptic.

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

admincms's picture

Re: History of Australian rules football on U. S. television

I've been watching since 1980.  I don't count anything I saw on Wide World of Sports since I didn't watch the show for footy or even know what it was.

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

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