No alarms and no surprises…

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If there’s one thing PR has taught us over the years, it’s that those who don’t foresee their own obsolescence are always the most startled by their own demise. The world changes on marketers so quickly – changing demographics, long-lost outdated metrics of success being relied on…

AFLM media (as opposed to AFLM football which is rolling on like it’s 1978) hasn’t yet foreseen the obsolescence of several metrics of success they once relied on, and despite the old guard digging in their heels and arguably winning the year, it’s impossible not to feel their time is nearing the end.

Sure, for now, James Brayshaw can cackle airlessly into a microphone about how hilarious it is when a tall ruckman bends over to pick up a ball, the Sunday Footy show can get an entire segment out of Tony Jones teeth (which are VERY funny) and Bounce can lazily milk clips that Jason Dunstall is a pig…

But how long is that going to hold up for before viewers want something fresh?

If this blog has a thematic strand for this season, it’s we’ve hit an old world/new world impasse of football and no one seems to know how to proceed.

If ever there was a moment that summed up the awkward dance, it was Mark Robinson asking awkwardly to Mike Sheahan “how does a 70-year-old man prepare to interview a transgender footballer?” like there was a manual or a course to take.

And in fairness to Robbo, he was genuinely trying – try negotiating the old world/new world impasse on social media, where unfiltered venom passes as discourse, and anyone challenging the old ways of doing things is likely to receive….well you know.

That said, for the first time in a long time, no one seems to truly know what the future of football media is – is it the Beep Test? It’s not the Footy Show. Is it On The Mark with more serious interviews? If it’s not Triple Ms scripted “time for you to cop it” segments, is it more informative commentary? Is it Tony Jones teeth being whitened again?

There’s a lot of awkward discussions behind the scenes about what you the viewer want – and its lead to lots of awkward decisions. Mostly about chasing the new generation of viewer, through Marvel crossovers and AFLX. but the presentation and packaging hasn’t been updated.

Hell even Brayshaw was commentating on AFLX, giggling gleefully that “Big Pruessy!” was on the ball – so no change there at all.

It’s hard to chase a younger demographic with material that hasn’t freshened since the Bob and Lou days, when Stephen A Smith and Rachel Nicholls (for instance) are as accessible as the Sunday Footy Show panel.

Even the “beer with me mates” crowd don’t seem happy with the commentary teams, drifting away from the Footy Show muttering that Dave Hughes killed it off or something as the ratings plummet.

To be honest, there’s a lot to work through when it comes to commercial television – maybe a separate post to cover all eventualities, but the old world won’t go down without a fight. They’ll cling to their old world of ratings successes, lavish lunches and exclusionary ways as long as they can. The day they lose their grip is coming, but it hasn’t come yet…

Which brings us neatly to Channel 7…

No one reads and no one needs

It’s not coming up with a particularly revelatory blog post to say commercial television is lurching towards its own obsolescence, the glory days of forcing to huddle around the box for special episodes of Friends spaced 3 weeks apart a dimly lit nostalgic memory.

What’s strange is in 2018, commercial television still has such a hold over the game – in fact, one PR firm has taken up the cudgels that (wait for it) it’s a PR priority to fix the Footy Show.

After all, in their logic, a prime time football show on commercial television is a vital link to the masses, and simply can’t be lost, no matter how outdated and vitriolic the outbursts from Sam…

See what we mean about a new world/old world impasse…

It’s might also seem hardly revelatory to suggest Channel 7s commentary team are a truly terrible collective – some weeks they don’t know the rules, some times they don’t know the players (Brian Taylor inexplicably yelled out Paul Van Der Haar was flying for a mark on ANZAC Day). They don’t inform, they don’t entertain, they just talk.

It’s hard to find anyone who enjoys their commentary, who tunes in religiously for jokes about in jokes from last week. It’s also long been established by the old world of “beers with the boys!” that Wayne Carey is a top commentator, and if anyone has a problem with it, you are promptly told he could kick a ball really well.

Channel 7 have a station policy that you, the viewer, have a limited attention span, and the way to solve the issue is to cram the airwaves with noise, jokes, sound, Cameron Ling saying a team was feeling the love out there (boys) and then in jokes that reference the jokes from the first quarter.

As such, in their metrics for success if you post (like this blog) about how awful it is, guess what? You’ve joined in the conversation! Tweet out “oh god, Basil!” – and that’s a tick for them. Trust us when we say even negative commentary is gold to Channel 7. Brian Taylor being truly awful in the Sydney rooms gets publicity after all.

Be anything you want, but pick an end of the spectrum they say. Be terrible or great, just get those column inches…

And it’s not as if Channel 7 are above immunizing themselves to criticism – somehow they managed to promote a narrative that falling ratings are all Carltons fault, maybe the Western Bulldogs fault, without ever looking inward at the trope of Basils and Hamishs and Careys and asking if they can do better.

No, it’s the scheduling, it’s the lack of characters, it’s the viewer not being smart enough to enjoy their offerings. You just don’t GET that Lawrence Mooney “big Cox” joke, and its true sophistication. Nothing needs to change inwardly, the viewer just needs to change…

It’s everything BUT Channel 7…

All the things we reference in the first paragraph about medias uncertainties where to go? Whats scary is Channel 7 ARE convinced what they were doing is the right way to go, and plan on delivering more of the same. Their metrics are solid, they’ve convinced themselves it’s you that’s wrong…

Tim Worner actually said he doesn’t think the coverage affects the ratings – which is such a strange sentence to even type, there would normally be just one conclusion to all this. If ratings are down, if interest is down, and everyone hates your coverage, you’d normally look inward, and you didn’t….

…well obsolescence is pending, but there’s just one problem…

This is my final fit, My final bellyache

All of this would be somewhat of an amusing sideshow if it wasn’t for their pervasive influence on the sport.

They don’t think they are wrong, they think YOU are wrong, the viewer is wrong, the schedule is wrong, and since they have the financial investment in the game and because they’ve convinced people like Jon Ralph that TV ratings are still a metric of success, they are pulling off an amazing marketing con trick.

They’ve aligned the “failings” of the sport with a desire to get more ad revenue, and on some levels, it’s quite brilliant. An evil brilliance, but still…

The notion that Gerard, Malcolm and Leigh are huddled around a notepad trying to save the game at their committee from the wicked perils of congestion for the games good is a wonderful fallacy. They are looking to create ways for more goals to be scored, so Channel 7 can rake in more ad revenue.

To use an American phrase, sport is the last “DVR proof” product anyone is relying on, since the days of special event TV and promoting say a Olivia telemovie can’t guarantee an audience. Also a lot of work has gone into the networks naked terror that no one is watching TV after 8:30 pm now, so sport becomes even more important, since it’s the last bastion of show you can’t stream.

The ratings can’t fall through a certain point, logically, since people will watch live sport. But using old metrics, commercial TV ratings still work out to ad revenue like it’s 1996 – so hence the great con trick. Football is terrible! Too much congestion! We must not let it die!

Tim Worner (him again) has already said “I want more goals … That’s the most valuable 30 seconds of screen real estate in Australian television, aside from the 30 seconds after an over.'” in an interview for the Age, and so here we are. We can lament Channel 7s buffoonery for some time, but this is far from a laughing matter.

Talking down football is a strange marketing strategy, but they’ve already pushed and nudged Steve Hocking into forming the committee for ad revenue, sorry, look of the game to find nothing more than how to have more goals. There’s no other outcome to this.

Womens football was the test case, one bad game at the start of the season enough to nudge Hocking and his cohorts into releasing a memo that ruined and derailed the entire season.

Emboldening the critics on the back of one game? Letting every Herald Sun writer disparage women’s football with gleeful poison?

It didn’t matter – Channel 7 wanted more goals, for more ad breaks. It’s that simple. And a three goal game (Carlton vs Collingwood) just wouldn’t do. Everything that derailed the season, expecting support from a commercial TV partner?

No chance women, there’s Special K to sell…

With women’s football, it was easy to somehow convince the old world the problem was with womens football and of course, thus with women, that part is easy to, ahem, a certain demographic  – it’s much harder to convince people whats wrong with men’s football, but here we find ourselves, with Channel 7 playing the same trick and getting the same journalists to call on legends to write about how much better football was in the 20s.

Football may have legitimate concerns about the style and shape of the game, and logically Richmond as Premiers draw more viewers than a 1 win Carlton team, but to ally yourself so clearly with the needs of commercial television and sacrifice your sports best interests for it is a strange decision for AFLM to take in 2018.

You can say Channel 7 pay the bills of course thus can do what they want, but to give up your own governance so clearly to a commercial TV network in its dying days is a potentially fatal blow to the sport. If the goal (pardon the pun) is to increase scoring through artificiality, what does your sport look like? How do you sell that? How do you convince people that you haven’t sold out to television, that this is what people want?

We know the lesson from womens football that artificially increasing scoring via memo mid-season ended up pleasing no one. Shootout football isn’t necessarily much better than defensive football when it’s artificial, but lets not pretend this is an aesthetic debate anymore. The message is clear – by fair means or foul, you are getting more goals.

Will it be evolution or revolution? What marketing message are you left selling – will anyone enjoy more a Channel 7 influenced score fest with no change to the commentary stylings? Will more people tune in to watch a shootout with Brian Taylor still wandering around the rooms?

Channel 7 again think the viewer is the problem, and they’re planning to bet the style of the game on it….

 

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