AFL 2016: Radio wars loom as Crocmedia bids for control of rights

Lachlan Murdoch’s Nova Entertainment is making a play to call football Photo: James AlcockA radical shake-up of the AFL’s radio rights looms with at least one media company looking to take control of the game’s national coverage.

Craig Hutchison’s Crocmedia, a radio and TV distribution company, has made a bold bid to buy the next radio rights from the AFL and sub-licence the coverage of matches around Australia.

With all submissions now in for the next radio media deal it has also emerged that an FM newcomer, Lachlan Murdoch’s Nova Entertainment, has also put forward a bid to call football, challenging Triple M’s dominance.

Triple M has also made a bid for greater control of the weekend radio football market.

The AFL has refused to comment on the radio negotiations which come with certain provisos of reach to regional and metropolitan markets Australia-wide guaranteeing the ABC as the game’s national broadcaster.

While the forthcoming $2.5billion TV rights agreement will run for six years from 2017, the AFL has asked radio bids to cover a minimum of the next three years.

“They’ve invited expressions of interest and as a 60-year broadcast partner with the AFL we remain very interested in continuing that partnership,” 3AW boss Adam Lang said.

Lang, the chief operating officer of Macquarie Media which owns 3AW, would not comment on the Crocmedia bid although at least two current broadcast partners have indicated they would be uncomfortable dealing with a new rights holder.

Under the Crocmedia bid the AFL’s view is the ABC, which broadcasts into Victoria on 774, would remain the league’s broadcaster with the biggest national reach.

AFL executive Andrew Dillon is running the radio negotiations which have also seen submissions from SEN and the ABC.

It remained unclear whether the market would sustain two FM stations in Triple M and Nova.

Crocmedia currently provides strong regional content for the AFL as well as providing content for SEN as well for TV and online.

The radio negotiations have moved into overdrive as it emerged that the next TV rights could see just 3.5 average free-to-air games televised each week of a possible nine from next season.

Channel Nine had put forward a bid to televise weekly Saturday night games each week for the next six years.

But that move was pushed aside after the NRL announced its new media deal with the Nine Network.

While the AFL remains hopeful that Foxtel will sub licence 11 Saturday afternoon games to Channel Ten talks between those two parties have stalled with no real prospect of a deal at this stage.

This would leave the “people’s game” with less free-to-air’ coverage than previously and over 11 rounds of football from next season just one third of the game’s televised on Seven.

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