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As many fans know, coverage of the Collingwood v GWS match this past weekend (Round 11, 6/14/15) was interrupted by live soccer coverage. AFANA was made aware of the issue very quickly and responded to fans on Twitter. Here is the full story, the FOX statement, and what we can expect in the future:

On Fox Sports 1, coverage of the auto race in progress was weather delayed and thus ran past the allotted time. That meant the live coverage of the USA v Serbia in the Women’s FIFA tourney, which was to air on FS1, was bumped from FS1 to Fox Sports 2. This meant the FS2 coverage of the FIFA U-20 tourney was bumped from FS2 to Fox Soccer Plus. Making the problem worse, the Mali v Germany U-20 game ran long, eventually requiring extra time and a shootout and ended 50 minutes in the timeslot for the live Collingwood v GWS game. When the soccer game ended, the Collingwood v GWS game was picked up in progress at around the 16:00 minute mark of the 2nd quarter. The AFL game continued through to halftime. During the half, about 1h 19min into the AFL slot, the other shoe dropped and the AFL match was again bumped off air, this time for the Uzbekistan v Senegal U-20 match. Coverage of the U-20 match was switched back to FS2 at around the 1h 56min mark and AFL coverage resumed on FSP (8:00 min left 3rd quarter). AFL coverage continued until the match end and the first post-match interview. It was then cut off before the team song and final comments at 2h 54m into the AFL slot. None of these switches of coverage were accompanied by any on-screen message on FSP and most were very abrupt and without warning.

Fox provided the following statement to the AFL: "This last weekend we had an enormous amount of live content to broadcast across our three networks, due to most of them running long we had to shuffle a lot of our programming and the decision was made to use FOX Soccer Plus as overflow for a high profile event that we have contractual obligations to air live in its entirety. Once we were able to shift this program off of Plus, we were able to get the AFL match back on air. It wasn’t an ideal situation, however we are making plans to ensure that we are better prepared in the future, and that if we must switch over any AFL matches that they will at least be moved to another FOX platform for the viewers to follow."

As of this time, the AFL game will not be replayed due to the on-going FIFA tournaments this week. We have shared fans frustration with how this was handled with the AFL. In the future, we would hope that at minimum, on screen messages would alert fans to unexpected interruptions in live coverage. This is a stark reminder that Aussie rules still lacks the supporters, ratings, and sponsors to be treated better. This means that beyond this incident, there is work to do to improve the ratings and sponsors for the sport in the USA.


Article last changed on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 - 9:12 PM EDT


Comments

Posted by Jake (not verified) on June 17, 2015

Prior to this season, we ended our satellite TV service (DirecTV) which meant saying goodbye to Fox and FSP. The cost was getting a little silly for everything. Instead, I now depend 100% on WatchAFL, which I've had in the past, but not as my exclusive option for footy. (And this year it was even cheaper as an add-on to my annual team membership.) I'm torn because I'd love to see the AFL gain more viewers in North America, and appreciate how many games Fox has given us over these past few years. To me, Fox has seemed like a good AFL partner. And yet the WatchAFL option gives me every game either live or on-demand at a cheaper price, at least in my case. Plus, I don't get subjected to schedule changes like the one you're talking about, although I think this was a rare incident. I know you've been at the front of the fight to get better exposure on North American TV for the AFL. But considering there's only so much capacity for games/leagues, I wonder if the digital option like WatchAFL is the future, not just for the AFL, but for many sports around the world. That obviously negatively affects folks who could stumble across the sport like I did when I saw a game on ESPN. But if the AFL could get a channel on Roku, Apple TV, etc., maybe that starts to become the way new people find the AFL. (Which makes me wonder if you're aware of any attempts by the AFL to get on those boxes.)
Posted by admincms on June 20, 2015

Hi Jake,

I understand where you are coming from. AFANA encourages fans to choose the viewing option that best suits them or is most readily available. Some fans don't have a cable provider that offers Fox Soccer Plus (FSP) and changing providers isn't an option for them. Others haven't been pleased with the quality or reliability of WatchAFL. Priced across seven months of the AFL, the two are very similar in cost. WatchAFL delivers more games but how many a week do you actually watch? For me, I find watching four on FS2 and FSP to be close to my max and still manage AFANA and my other business commitments and my family. While I have access to WatchAFL it doesn't add much for that reason. As the adverts used to say: "Your Mileage May Vary". Every fan should do what works best for them and support other fans having the same choices.

To address your other point, fans should keep in mind what FSP and WatchAFL do NOT do. Neither is a viable method to expose significant numbers of new fans to the sport. No one, not already a committed fan, is going to fork over $15/month or $150 a year to watch a sport they have never seen. The coverage on Fox Sports 2 (FS2) is absolutely essential for exposing the sport to new fans.

AFANA has and will continue to actively encourage WatchAFL to make it's product available on Roku, Google TV, and Apple TV. That will help with convenience and distribution but not with exposure since it would still likely be subscription. Again, it comes down to FS2. At this time, we have no word as to when and if WatchAFL will be available on those platforms.

I concur that long term, the future distribution will be via the internet but we're still years away from that being the option that serves everyone best. For that reason, AFANA will be encouraging the AFL to seek a renewal of the contract with Fox with even better coverage. (For those that want the sport on another network, we get that. Unfortunately, ESPN has expressed no interest in having the sport on a broadcast network, only via WatchESPN. Other networks were not interested last time around, but you never know about the future. What is known, is that matching the 4 live matches across 2 networks plus an average of 3 to 4 repeats per match per week on FSP is going to be hard on any other network.)


-Rob
AFANA Chairman and Site Admin

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