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AFANA was advised this afternoon (6/22/12) that following the July 7th telecast, MHz Networks will drop Australian football.  The announcement suggests financial costs are the reason however we have no detailed explanation.  We will post further information as it becomes available.  Coverage will continue on Fox Soccer Plus. AFANA is deeply disappointed at this unexpected news.  [Ed. note (07/09/12):  Please see the comment below regarding the AFL response.]

Article last changed on Monday, July 09, 2012 - 2:18 PM EDT


Comments

Posted by Jake (not verified) on June 22, 2012

I just read the release on their site. While not a lot of details, they seem upfront about it being a financial issue which I appreciate. But I wonder what happened so quick. As late as a few weeks ago on their Facebook page, they're talking about their new Roku channel for AFL. I can see dropping it at the end of the year if the financial part isn't working, but the timing of mid-season seems odd. What do they know now that they didn't know three weeks ago?
Posted by admincms on June 22, 2012

Hi Jake,

I can't answer your question directly since, as noted, we do not yet have any details to share.  What I can tell you is that another fan, in their primary viewing area, has said there are other financial issues. It may well be that this has nothing to do with footy directly, it is just a cost cutting casualty but that would be speculation.

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by daddyodilly on June 23, 2012

Yeah, I am disappointed, too.  I have been a champion for MHz Worldview.  It was their broadcasts on our local public TV station in 2010 that reconnected me to Australian rules football.  Looks like I will be using afl.livesport.tv more now.  Might as well. I'm paying for it.  We lost TV coverage here and on ESPN in just a matter of months.

I guess the AFL doesn't really care about the North American viewership or growing their sport world wide. Sure there are pay per view options, but how many Americans are going to pay for some obscure sport when there is NFL, NBA, MLB, and college sports that are in vast quantity and free of charge? I love footy and am running out viewing options. The greediness of the AFL is really disappointing. I am going to miss it.
Posted by admincms on June 24, 2012

Hi Vance,

Thanks for commenting.

By all we know this had nothing to do with the AFL not supporting fans or greed.  If you read the bulletin and the comments above you will note that we did not blame the AFL. There is a reason we didn't.  Early indications are that MHz has unrelated financial issues forcing them to cut costs.  They have been a strong supporter of the sport for most of 18 seasons. 

If I or anyone involved with AFANA thought that the AFL was to blame here, trust me when I tell you we would say so. Even if the AFL didn't like it.  We have a nearly 17 year track record in journalistic and organizational integrity in support of North American footy fans and we won't sacrifice that.  The AFL knows this and more than once has expressed intense displeasure at something we've posted.  They also know we work hard to promote the game the right way. There is plenty to criticize about the AFL but so far, not here and now. 

If we learn, at any point, that AFL action or inaction was a factor here, we will tell you.  At this point, we have no indication of that.  Please don't blame them before we know the full story. 

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by Brian B. (not verified) on June 25, 2012

Hi Rob, I'm in total agreement with you in that, in this instance, the timing and the nature of the discontinuation seems to lead that the issue was on the MHz side. But playing devil's advocate here, is it possible that the price for this / next season, which is set by the AFL, had something to do with it?
Posted by admincms on June 25, 2012

Hi Brian,

Is it possible? Of course. There is no doubt it is an expensive proposition for a public TV station to do what MHz Networks does and to include sports.  I'm sure they wish the AFL was cheaper. It seems unlikely though that the price suddenly increased in mid-season.  That would be contrary to any contracting practice I've ever heard. 

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by Gifford (not verified) on June 26, 2012

So sad to see the news. Are there any other networks out there that would cover AFL? Wouldn't the AFL consider lowering its price just for the sake of promoting the game? No more footy in the US is a very depressing thought.
Posted by admincms on June 26, 2012

Hi Gifford,

At this time, there are no other interested networks we are aware of. Since we still have coverage on Fox Soccer Plus for serious fans there is no urgent need to jump into a potentially bad arrangement. AFANA will work with and encourage the AFL to try to get MHz back and failing that, we will look at other ways to get widespread coverage that exposes the sport to new fans. 

Once again, we do not believe that some sudden cost increase in the coverage in mid season happened or had anything to do with this. Therefore, it make no sense to "lower" the price. This represented a sudden reversal of what was expanding coverage on MHz. 

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by Billy B. (not verified) on July 02, 2012

Well....I'm glad I found AFANA tonight, but certainly under regrettable circumstances. MHz has been my conduit to the AFL. While I have access to MHz I do not have access to Fox Soccer Plus. Just seeing the name Fox leads to speculation, however. If Fox is paying to broadcast the AFL, then certainly they won't want to share with MHz or anyone else. I suspect it was Rupert's boys who are behind this one. Thank you to MHz, and best wishes for extensive television options for AFL fans in the USA.
Posted by admincms on July 02, 2012

Hi Billy,

Thanks for commenting.

I doubt that anyone at Fox had anything to do with this.  MHz had clear secondary rights and a condition on Fox getting primary rights is that MHz could continue.  Not something that Fox or anyone else was going to change mid-season.  While it might seem like we can blame the "Murdoch bogeyman" you can burst that bubble.  It is unlikely that happened here.  Let's not put blame where we have no evidence it belongs. 

To repeat, once we have more facts, we'll let everyone know.  Until then, all of these "theories" are just raw and so far, unfounded speculation. 

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by admincms on July 02, 2012

Thanks for the note.  We learned of two repeats on FUEL over the weekend and Jeff, who posts schedules here, is following up on this.  Fox did not previously alert us so we assume these are one off fill in program slots.  We'll get them added to the schedules shortly.   We've been delayed due to the consequences of the storm damage over the weekend.

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by fred8615 on July 03, 2012

I don't think these are one offs, cause my cable guide shows two more games next week.

It also says they're two hours long, so it appears they're not "full" games. 

Posted by admincms on July 07, 2012

Jeff of our TV staff has confirmed that FUEL will be carrying one repeat each of two different matches each week until (at least) the start of finals.  These will be added to our TV schedules page and Google calendar. 

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by JoshC (not verified) on July 09, 2012

FUEL is little help for those of us on Comcast, as FUEL is just as unavailable to Comcast subscribers as FS+ is. The Virginia fiscal year starts on July 1. Odds are whatever payment MHz made to the AFL was squeezed out of the new budget.
Posted by admincms on July 09, 2012

Hi JoshC,

Thanks for commenting. 

Let's make this clear:  No one believes the repeats on FuelTv represent a replacement for MHz. The coincidence of the added repeats is just that, coincident timing so far as we know. 

See my comments elsewhere on the future of the MHz coverage and the AFL reply. 

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by daddyodilly on July 09, 2012

Fuel is a recordable channel which means viewers can record the games and watch at convenient times. (On some cable systems not all channels are recordable. Most are but some are not.) Fuel is available on my local cable provider Cox Communications as part of a "sports & information" package which includes 30 channels for $6.00 a month. Fox Soccer Plus is not available on my local Cox cable company but it is available locally on AT&T U-verse for $14.95 a month just for that one channel. So it looks like Fox is expanding their AFL coverage to two of their sports channels which is certainly better than just one or even none! Also nice is the fact that the start times of these games (so far) is during weekdays which I think is better than late-night. This is happening just when coverage on MHz Worldview has ended. This is a positive development but it still requires all viewers to pay for it separately. I still think that AFL games ought to be aired weekly on a channel viewers do not have to pay for separately like MHz. I remain hopeful that the AFL will be back on MHz next year or sooner.

Posted by admincms on July 09, 2012

Hi again,

Thanks for the info on Cox and FuelTV.

Please see my comments elsewhere on the issue of free vs pay coverage.  I agree (and so do the AFL and USAFL by the way) that a free option is necessary to expose fans to the sport.  Unfortunately, the untimely end to MHz coverage has, for now, taken that away.  It will be a priority on AFANA's part to see it replaced or MHz restored.  However, it is unlikely, at week 16, that it will happen before the end of this season. 

Also see my comments (to be posted momentarily) regarding the AFL's response to inquiries on MHz. 

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Hi Rob, Point well taken. I guess I am just frustrated; after Setanta pulling out and creating a vacuum in AFL and GAA coverage, then ESPN pulling out and now this loss of coverage from MHz. I am now down to paying for coverage (which I really cannot afford right now) or depending on YouTube and the AFL website to stay in touch with my favorite sport. I'll be patient and watch your website, as always, for updated reports. Thank-you, Vance
Posted by admincms on June 25, 2012

Hi Vance,

If you're frustrated you aren't alone. Jeff, Paat, Ben, and myself (and the rest of the AFANA team) are, too. We've now had the 4th significant coverage change in less than 36 months.  We really want good quality, stable, and widespread coverage of the sport for the fans. Hard to lobby for that when the boat is springing big leaks (so to speak). Not to mention Jeff trying to keep the TV schedules straight. Oh, and that is the US part only.  Not including Canada and Mexico which have other issues. 

We're all unhappy at this but first step is to understand why and how then to figure out what we do next.  We really want to try to save the Roku feed, too. That and the 30+ MHz affiliates were getting footy into communities all over the US and now we face losing that.  MHz was bringing more new fans to the sport than anything else going.   

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by Ken (not verified) on June 30, 2012

Whether the AFL is "greedy" or not, the point remains that *if* they want to expand the game to North America, it is in their long-term interest to get AFL coverage available in North America as widely and through as many free methods as possible. As it is, not only is the free MhZ streaming (available pretty much anywhere) going away, it isn't looking all that rosy in many markets for the pay viewing options, either other than web-based services. Add me to the list of people who discovered AFL via MhZ (though not in my home area - only when visiting friends or relatives). I thought I'd found the long-term answer with MhZ's streaming coverage. I guess I was wrong. HEY AFL! People in North America will want your product, if you can just expose them to it in a reliable and low cost fashion!
Posted by admincms on July 02, 2012

Hi Ken,

Thanks for commenting. 

The philosophy behind MHz as an outlet was precisely what you advocate.  A way to expose the game to new fans, and as an example, we gain fans like yourself. We had a long thread earlier this season following another article on US coverage and one of the points I made there is that for the AFL to succeed in the TV marketplace here it has to do more than simply offer it's product widely or cheaply (networks do not value or treat well what they get for free).  The AFL has to make it valuable to networks here.  That means better marketing and promotion.  Without it there is there is no audience.  Without an audience there are no sponsors and  improved ratings.  Without sponsors and better ratings there is no coverage.  Catch22.  The only way out is you have to promote the game.  Soccer is making huge breakthroughs in the US TV market.  Why?  They have finally built a fan base and the game is promoted and marketed here not just shown on TV wherever someone will take it.

That's why AFANA is here.  We want to support fans, give them a voice, and promote the sport.  Support us and we can do more.  We are trying to get more info on this decision from MHz and the AFL. 

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by Jake (not verified) on July 02, 2012

On the surface, the AFL making their product available for free or next to nothing just for exposure makes sense. But there's a catch to that. I don't believe North America is the only place the AFL wants to make inroads. We're obviously more focused on that because we live here. So I imagine they have broadcast partners (and more that they'd like to partner with) around the world. That being the case, how would some network in another country who paid top dollar for the product feel when they find out another network got it on the cheap? If I was the network paying top dollar, that would certainly affect the next round of my negotiations with the AFL. While not a direct comparison, I saw something similar in my radio days. If a salesman sold some airtime cheap (for whatever reason) other advertisers wanted the same deal if they found out about it. (And in a small town, they normally did.) At a certain point, getting one advertiser in cheap just to make extra money could lead long-term losses if you either had to offer that to others, or others bailed because they were ticked off. My point is, I'm not sure it's fair to look at this from a narrow view of what might be best for North America when I imagine that AFL looks at things on a more global level and has to weigh pros and cons of making better deals just to boost numbers in one country. Don't get me wrong... I'd love to see the games far more accessible. But I'm also trying to see this from the AFLs point of view beyond just North America. It's just speculation, though. I could be way off base here.
Posted by admincms on July 02, 2012

Hi Jake,

Thanks for the comment.  Your point is good and not very different from mine.

The reason you don't give programming away for free is that networks don't value what they don't pay for.  Think about it.  Do you value what you are given for free?  Probably not near as much as you value something you paid hundreds for.  Networks aren't any different.  If they get programming for free it is the first to be pre-empted, cancelled, or rescheduled.  If something goes wrong the supplier has no leverage.  It's easy to think that somehow if it was free it would get more exposure.  In fact, the opposite is usually true. 

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by Ken (not verified) on July 05, 2012

It seems to me that there are two models if AFL wishes to expand interest in the game, and each has drawbacks. The one approach is to tie coverage into a special package, such as the soccer channel deal. The problem is that this only exposes to the game to a very limited audience, albeit one that might be inclined to be interested. The other approach is to go for far broader exposure over free or "basic" pay channels, build a fan base and then transition, for reasons already described, from "free" to "paying". The question is how many fans will one have made during the free or low cost period who will be willing to become paying customers for what they previously got for free. NBC took this approach with their "Universal Sports" channel, offering it free as an over the air HDTV channel to build a viewer/fan base, and then moving to cable. It's still TBD how well this ultimately works out for the channel, or for the sports that had gotten exposure over that channel.
Posted by admincms on July 07, 2012

Hi Ken,

The strategy to having both MHz and FSP was to do both things you suggest.  FSP provided extended live coverage for existing fans though at a cost.  The cost is unavoidable given that footy has neither sponsors nor sufficient ratings (see discussion elsewhere on this point). 

MHz provided wider exposure through their 30+ affiliates as a free to air outlet usually on the secondary HD channels of the affiliates and thereby exposing new fans to measured doses of the sport at no cost.  It was working.  More fans came to this site via MHz than FSP or ESPN in the past 3 seasons. 

Neither was "giving" the sport away to the networks thus avoiding the issues that this creates. 

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Well, if nothing else, we have found from the response to this comment that there is a bustling group of AFL fans here in the US. Now if only we could get the AFL to notice and hear our voices. Mid-season match-ups, and all the excitement that we are missing. Just makes me want to sit down and cry. Here we are, in arguably the biggest sports-market country in the world, and the AFL not a part of it all. I'm clueless. Vance
Posted by admincms on July 10, 2012

Hi Vance,

Oh, we've known the fans are here for a long time and so do at least some at the AFL. Why do you think AFANA exists?  We were formed by motivated fans 17 years ago to make sure the AFL stayed on the air in the US and Canada. 

As for the AFL. They've noticed. The issue isn't whether they hear us. They do.  The issue for them is how to compete in the sports marketplace here.  The US sports market is 35 times the size of that in Australia.  The NFL's annual revenue is billions per year from TV as opposed to 1 billion over 5 years for the AFL down under.  When the AFL enters this market they are insignificant.  As I've said over and over, it's about ratings and sponsors. 

No reason to be clueless.  It's about to how to make footy relevant and competitive.  AFANA is doing what we can to help but ask yourself, how many fans here have done anything to support what we do?  Less than 1% of those who post here ever donate to us. Lots have something to say but few put money where it matters. We can't lobby networks or work with the AFL with no resources, sponsors, etc. 

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by LachlanC - Was… (not verified) on July 08, 2012

I COMPLETELY agree, the AFL is just bloody nuts not trying to grow the sport in the biggest market in the world. AFANA people, how about trying to get some comment from the AFL. TWO games per week on a expensive extra channel? Not a single free viewing option, or even a basic cable option, in NORTH AMERICA? How about an online petition?
Posted by admincms on July 08, 2012

Hi Lachlan,

Thanks for commenting. 

The problem I have is that you assume the AFL doesn't care because we didn't get the results you want.  This is false.  I believe they do care and I communicate with them regularly.  However, that does not mean that they either know the best way to do it (they probably don't) or that they could get better coverage if they just wanted it more (they can't). 

I can assure you that if there was another network that wanted or was interested AFANA would bring it to the AFL's attention immediately.  However, every other major sports network was either not interested or negotiations were unsuccessful. As we've stated in this and numerous other messages on this site, both CBS and NBC said no and ESPN and the AFL could not reach an agreement.  I encourage you to read the back articles and comments here. Unless and until we have either major sponsors and / or better ratings no one will step forward.  Just because you and I think this sport is fantastic does not mean sports programmers at the US networks think so.  In fact, I can tell you they don't.  They want to see ratings or revenue. 

We have asked both the AFL and MHz to discuss the end of coverage on MHz with us and provide comment. So far, both have declined to do so.  I presume this is because there are business reasons they don't yet want to discuss it publicly.  That could mean that MHz might yet return under some scenario we don't know or it could mean neither side wants to expose whatever reason was behind the "split" and dropped coverage. 

There are two problems with an online petition.  The first is that FSP has a 3 year deal.  That means it is staying on FSP until the end of the 2014 season unless they walk away or breach the contract.  MHz could be replaced as a secondary outlet but what is your candidate for that? Without one, there is no point to the petition. The second issue is numbers. A petition matters only if you can generate sufficient numbers to impress the recipient.  For that, I'd suggest you need thousands of signatories.  If you get less you hurt the cause by showing that the audience isn't there after all.  If you can get the numbers why not make the same effort to boost the ratings and justify expanded coverage to begin with?  If AFANA thought a petition would work we'd do it.  Right now evidence suggests, based on the two reasons cited above, it wouldn't work. I'd like to be wrong about this but I doubt I am. 

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by admincms on July 09, 2012

The AFL has now provided the following response, in part, to our inquiries:

"...unfortunately, after a strong 15 year partnership, a cost related issue has resulted in our partnership with MHz coming to an end.  It is extremely disappointing given they have been one of our long-standing partners and we are aware that this would be devastating news to AFL fans in the US.  However, we are extremely grateful for their unwavering support they have given the AFL over the years.  It is our hope that the future may once again see a broadcast partnership between the AFL and MHz."

Cutting through the PR-speak, what this means is that there was a cost issue, probably on MHz end, not the AFL, and the AFL has left the door open for them to return in the future.  Had this been due to some other reason, the door would probably not still be open.  MHz has yet to comment to us, on Facebook, their web site, or elsewhere with any real explanation of the decision other than vague hints it was due to cost problems. 

Now, before all the AFL bashers jump in, this does not mean the AFL raised the charges, changed the cost, refused to renegotiate or anything of the sort. Nor does it tell us whether MHz would have continued were it "free" as they have costs of production and distribution above the rights fees alone. 

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by William Jurus (not verified) on September 24, 2012

You are putting it mildly when you said AFL Fans would be disappointed in the US by the cancellation of Mhz Broadcasts. It has saddened us deeply as it became a way of life with us here in Chicago Il. We could not belive the Story and hope that what ever the problem or problems might be that they will be resolved and back to the Games that so many of us looked forward to.....Pls make an effort ..............William J

Hi William,

Thanks for commenting. It only helps to know fans like yourself who care are out there.

I don't think saying we are "deeply disappointed" could be taken as putting it "mildly". We certainly feel that all fans are also deeply disappointed and the reaction here reinforces that.

We have been and continue to look at what can be done here but as we've said elsewhere the prospects for 2012 were dim and remain so.  We don't yet know what can be done in 2013. Much depends on how MHz management feels about the situation. Once this season is over and we have a week or two to recover we will be back working to get better coverage in 2013. 

-Rob
AFANA Chairman Emeritus and Site Admin

Posted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 05, 2012

Just found this site today, after also finding the announcement on the MHz website. I'm greatly disappointed - MHz was my introduction to Aussie Rules, and I've spent many hours in front of the screen watching a sport I've come to enjoy very much, and which I likely never would have been exposed to otherwise. Here's hoping they manage to work something out, or failing that, that the AFL manages to come up with another broadcaster willing and able to pick up the slack.

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