AFL fan site accuses Seven of ‘blackflip’ over broadcasting grand final in HD

Lewis email 1The Seven Network has been accused “backflipping” on a commitment made to an AFL fan pressure group to broadcast this year’s grand final on its high definition (HD) channel 7Mate.

AFL fan Josh Rowe, who runs the website “AFL in HD please” which boasts some 70,000 followers on its Twitter account, today published emails between himself and Seven Melbourne managing director Lewis Martin which appear to show that the TV network made a “confidential” commitment to broadcast the grand final on the higher quality broadcast channel.

In an email dated March 31, following a meeting between Rowe and Martin, the Seven Melbourne boss responds to a request for permission to announce that Seven will broadcast the grand final in HD by writing “re GF (grand final) this year that needs to remain confidential”.

The issue of major sporting codes not being broadcast in high definition by free-to-air channels has been an ongoing one for many armchair sports fans, with all of the primary channels (Seven, Nine and Ten) only broadcast in standard definition.  Fox Sports has an HD channel for each of its four main channels, including Fox Footy, which does not have the rights to show the grand final.

March emails between Rowe and Lewis

Rowe’s email to Lewis in March. Click to enlarge.

Lewis's response to Rowe

Lewis’s response to Rowe

However, after learning Seven was not going to broadcast this Saturday’s grand final between the Sydney Swan and Hawthorn Hawks in HD Rowe emailed Lewis to ask why, to which the Seven executive responded denying that he had ever made such a commitment.

“I did not promise that”, wrote Lewis, in an email provided to Mumbrella by Rowe. “I said to you I would update you in the event we would be. I shared with you the commercial realities.”

Email 2rev

Follow up emails between Lewis and Rowe.

Seven has declined to comment on the correspondence and whether it had given such a “confidential” commitment. The AFL also declined to comment on the correspondence.

Asked by Mumbrella why Seven was not providing the grand final in high definition a spokesman said: “We produce our AFL coverage for our primary channel (Seven) which is a standard definition channel.”

Whilst Seven is obliged to show the grand final on its main channel under both anti-siphoning and broadcast agreement rules, it could also simulcast on its HD multichannel, as Ten did recently with the Sochi Olympic games.

Rowe has been campaigning for Seven to broadcast the AFL in HD since 2012, and has built up a strong social media following over that time.

In March, after a series of posts on the topic, he had a phone conversation with Gillon McLachlan, who was then deputy CEO and has since been promoted to CEO of the AFL. Following that phone conversation he had the meeting with Lewis on the matter, where Rowe maintains the network made a commitment to have an HD broadcast for this year’s final.

“Absolutely they have broken their promise,” Rowe told Mumbrella. “I think it is quite disappointing that to my face Lewis said that the AFL grand final would be broadcast in HD this year.

“I took him at his word and he now appears to have broken that promise.”

Seven is required under anti-siphoning laws to provide a broadcast of the grand final of its main standard definition channel Seven however, the rule do not prevent it also broadcasting a high definition broadcast on its HD channel 7Mate.

On Saturday from 1.30-5.30pm 7Mate’s schedule includes an episode of Swamp Men, two episodes of collectibles show Bid America, Shannon’s Legends of Motorsport followed by more motoring programs with Horsepower TV and Pimp My Ride.

Rowe has now called on his followers to hold a boycott of sponsors of the AFL. “What Channel Seven is doing it pulling out every single cent they can from advertising, but look what they are showing on their HD channel (7Mate). . . so rather than go for quality content they are going for incremental dollars,” he said.

“AFL fans need to make it known that they want high quality content to go with their high quality TVs. I think fans of AFL need to let the sponsors know that they are not happy about Seven not broadcasting the AFL in HD as promised.”

Nic Christensen 


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