AFL's back and Nine gets its litmus test - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

AFL's back and Nine gets its litmus test

23/03/2005 06:53:48 PM Comments (0)

The Brisbane-St Kilda blockbuster will open the 2005 AFL season in style, but also highlight a major hurdle confronting Channel Nine in the looming television rights battle.

Thursday night's clash at the Gabba will be just the third stand-alone season-opener played outside Melbourne - the competition's home - and the first played in either of the developing markets of Brisbane and Sydney.

That is recognition of the AFL's desire to showcase two premiership contenders going head-to-head and build on the enormous interest this fixture - the Thursday night before Easter - has generated in the past two years.

But for Nine, which will this year fight the Seven-Ten consortium for the rights to broadcast games beyond 2006, the game emphasises one of the snags it has to overcome to make a solid case for retaining the AFL gig.

Nine will televise the Lions-Saints clash live into Brisbane and the southern capitals, but not into Sydney, where the NRL's The Footy Show will be shown in prime-time, before the late news.

Sydney viewers will not see the Lions-Saints game until 11.30pm.

Besides being able to put up the cash to beat the Seven-Ten bid, Nine's major problem is juggling its Friday night AFL and NRL commitments.

The AFL has declared it will look favourably on any bid that could promise screening Friday night games into Sydney and Brisbane.

However, Nine's Friday night NRL commitments prevent it doing that.

That puts Nine's joint position with Ten as the home of AFL broadcasting - a position held since 2002, when the current consortium took over from Seven - under severe threat.

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