Off the Wall

f the ARLC and Nine and Fox are to be believed, then the television rights deal announced today is not the best the game could get, but more than it should have expected.

The agreement has to be looked at in a number of contexts:
- What new benefits does it offer fans, especially free to air viewing fans?
- How much superior is it to the current deal?
- And how does it rate when compared with the new AFL deal?

The first question is easily answered. There are few new benefits for fans, and especially for fans who don't have television.

There will now be a Sunday night match on Fox Sports. Nine will show three games on a Thursday night.

Otherwise, from a viewer point of view not much changes.

We will still have just ONE live match on free to air television. The argument that we have two live matches on a Friday night is nonsense. Fans get one live game, and one on replay.

The Sunday afternoon game will continue to be a replay - allowing Nine to stuff it with more advertising.

Fox Sports fans are probably winners. They get five matches - and four will probably now be shown live, if not the full five.

Sunday night rugby league will be a winner on Fox, in my view.

But the big overall winner is Nine.

It keeps everything it currently has - including three Wednesday night state of origin matches, and the finals and grand finals.

There will be no "simulcast". The AFL agreement allows Fox broadcast all games. Seven show two or three matches "live" into Victoria.

In summary, fans get three fifths of bugger all out of the new deal. The real losers are free to air fans. Surprise! Surprise!

When considering how much superior the deal is to the current arrangement we need to consider just how hopelessly inferior the current deal is.

Forget the contra deals, the real measure of the deal is how much cash is involved.

The cash component is $925 million. There are advertising packages of around $90 million.

The cash component of the AFL deal is $1,118,000....close to $200 million more.

Rugby league gets around $340 million more - but that must be measured against the current wholly inadequate deal.

The AFL's last deal was $780 million. It secured $1,118,00 million in its new deal......about the same increase the ARLC has achieved.

The problem is that there can be no justification, based on ratings etc for the ARLC getting less than the AFL. Fullstop!

On that basis, the ARLC agreement is at least $100 million inferior to what it ought to have been.

The answer to the third question is simple - the AFL deal remains significantly superior, both for the AFL and fans.

In summary, I have to ask the question - is this the best we could get?

Apparently the ARLC believes it is.

It is very much a "status quo" deal when it comes to key issues such as timing of Origin games and grand finals.

Scheduling the first 20 rounds before the start of the season is an advance.

We await to hear who will decide scheduling - the ARLC or Nine and Fox?

The deal is better than the current one. It had to be!

But is it as good as it could be - in my view, no!