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For the first time since 1997, the Australian Football League will be on an ESPN network in North America. Following the demise of the sport on Setanta, the AFL has struck a deal for live coverage on ESPN360 of 3 matches per round (weekly) now and beginning in 2010, additional coverage of at least four matches per season (year) on ESPN2. Canadian fans will get one match per week (delayed) on TSN and repeats on TSN2.
AFANA worked closely with the AFL and the networks to support this unprecedented mid-season change. Coverage of the Grand Final will be on ESPN2 through 2011 and we are informed it will be live. Given ESPN's baseball contracts, we remain concerned about this. We do not know what the Grand Final situation on TSN will be for Canada. Unlike Setanta, this coverage will not require a subscription fee from fans. ESPN2 is in over 80% of US homes but aside from the Grand Final it will not have coverage until next season. ESPN360 is the "broadband" channel of ESPN and delivered by computer and it will carry matches live. This service may prove superior for some fans to the existing service on Aussie Sport TV (the Telstra/Big Pond/afl.com.au service by another name). Please note: ESPN360 will not cover all 8 AFL matches each week so you will still need to subscribe to Aussie Sport TV if you wish to get every match on a delayed basis. For those fans without ESPN360, coverage will be limited unless they have MHz Worldview or America One.
As AFANA gets more details, we will post that information on our TV Info and TV schedules pages. AFANA will be revising our TV schedules page as soon as possible with new schedules from ESPN, and TSN, as well as MHz and America One. For the first week or two, there may be some lag time as AFANA, the AFL, ESPN, and TSN work out the schedule logistics. Those pages will be revised to reflect this new coverage so please be patient while we "catch up". As always, AFANA will remain your one stop location to get all AFL TV coverage information and schedules for the USA and Canada.
Delayed free to air coverage of one match per week will continue by MHz Networks and America One. Together, MHz Networks and America One reach over half of the TV markets in North America. (See our TV Info for details on MHz and America One and to find out if your city or town has this free coverage.) MHz has agreed to continue as an AFL broadcaster through the 2011 season. They will carry the Grand Final on a 48 hour delayed basis. (Ed. note: America One will also continue and AFL matches through America One are shown on MSG+, available nationally as DirecTV ch. 635.)
Fans who watch coverage on ESPN360 may wish to register for an account at the ESPN web site in order to take full advantage of the coverage. You will also need to insure your browser and computer can support the service. To determine if your computer works with ESPN360 go to: ESPN360 System Requirements. There are also links there to install the "Move Player" add-in required for most browsers. (Ed. note: ESPN360 does not support all internet providers and if your ISP is not signed up this will impede your access. Please see the comments below for hints on what other fans have done. A list of providers for ESPN360 is here.) (Ed. note: (8/21/09) Matches on ESPN360 will be available for replay for only 48 hours following the starting time of the match.) (Ed. note: 5/2010: With the change to ESPN3, the service no longer requires the Move Player and now uses Adobe Flash. Flash must be installed on your computer.)
AFANA Interim Co-Chairman Kimber Smith has a statement here on the situation. Also, see her comment below. (Ed. note: Coverage on Setanta ended because of Setanta's financial difficulty. The AFL did not take their carriage rights away and the loss of coverage on Setanta could not have been stopped.)
Read the former Chairman's blog post on how we got to this point: The ESPN Deal And History
The press release from the AFL states:
"ESPN and the Australian Football League (AFL) have reached a multiyear rights deal for live multi-platform coverage in the United States and Canada. The agreement brings fans in the U.S. and Canada access to up to three live matches in each round of the home and away season for the remainder of this season and through the end of 2011. It also includes a number of Finals Series matches, including the 2009 Toyota AFL Grand Final from the Melbourne Cricket Ground in September.
In the United States, matches will be streamed live on ESPN360.com, ESPN’s signature live sports broadband network, as well as select AFL matches – including the Grand Final - being televised on ESPN2. In Canada, TSN or TSN2 will televise at least one live or delayed match per week.
The AFL’s agreement with ESPN in the U.S. and Canada follows last week’s confirmation that the league had secured ESPN as its broadcast rights partner in the UK and Ireland. ESPN also delivers the AFL to Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean region.
AFL Chief Operating Officer Gillon McLachlan said, “We are extremely pleased that ESPN will be working with us in the United States and Canada. They are a global leader in multimedia sports entertainment and the collaboration will ensure our expanding supporter base in the U.S. and Canada enjoy the highest standards in live AFL broadcast coverage going forward.
McLachlan also said the shift towards digital media coverage reflected the growing demand from sports consumers around the globe for live online content: “ESPN360.com has quickly become an online destination of choice for American sports fans and we are delighted that AFL will have a strong presence on the platform.”
Added Tim Bunnell, senior vice president of programming, ESPN International, “AFL presents a great opportunity for us as a company and is in line with our commitment to covering the world sports scene through our media platforms. The AFL and ESPN have a long relationship, stretching back to the early years of our company. We look forward to bringing the excitement and passion of Australian football back to fans in North America.”
Coverage will begin Friday, August 7 live in the U.S. and on delay Saturday, August 8 in Canada, with the Round 19 clash between finals aspirants Carlton and Geelong from the MCG.
ESPN – AFL United States and Canada Rights Deal Coverage Summary
• Live streaming coverage of three matches per round and finals matches on ESPN360.com.
• At least four matches per regular season in 2010 and 2011 and both Grand Finals live.
• Live coverage of the 2009 Grand Final on ESPN2.
• At least one match per week live or delayed on TSN or TSN2."
(Disclaimer: AFANA is paid a commission on all subscriptions to Aussie Sport TV made through our links. )
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