Thoughts on Network 10’s new-look Australian Grand Prix coverage ahead of this weekend for the first time since 2019 due to COVID

Within days before the Formula 1 cars hit the track at Albert Park in Melbourne, Network 10 unveiled their new look broadcast crew ahead of their annual live Australian Grand Prix coverage this weekend.

Tara Rushton will take over the co-host role alongside Scott Mackinnon, who recently joined this network a few months ago, to head 10’s soccer coverage of the A-League & Socceroos. She’s also no stranger to motorsport, having hosted many MotoGP races in the past for Fox Sports. And in coincidence, Mackinnon was also the co-host last season for 10’s MotoGP coverage until they lost the rights at the end of the year.

There’s another well-known Soccer royalty other than Rushton in former player and current 10’s soccer analyst Archie Thompson. He will be doing some behind-the-scenes reporting alongside Natalie Hunter. And Mark Webber and Tom Clarkson are back as always to bring the all-important insights that every Formula 1 fan needs to know; it ranges from practice on Friday to qualifying on Saturday and race day Sunday.

When it comes to the commentary feed, we still don’t know yet since the previous caller Matt White departed Network 10 nearly two years ago. I have contacted the network earlier today on the phone in which they were generous to take my call, but they’re unable to get back to me about their choice of sound behind the mic. It will be interesting to see if they will go with Tom Clarkson calling the race with expert analysis from Mark Webber, who commentated on some races before for BBC Radio 5 Live in the UK. But it won’t be a surprise if Network 10 will take the Sky Sports feed of David Croft & Martin Brundle since there aren’t many callers around to replace White nowadays.

Fox Sports has just extended their exclusive contract with the sport for another few years starting next season, in which will impact free to air networks when it comes to giving away the secondary package, such as the annual Australian GP live and everything else highlights. Although Nine can be excluded in this process when they wanted to take the whole lot & chuck it in for their paid Stan Sport streaming service, plus the Australian GP live for free on Nine, but they were unsuccessful.

And after 10’s recent loss with the MotoGP as well as their change of sports strategy with the exclusive Australian soccer content, it may as well be their last season covering Formula 1 before they move on & pass it over to either Seven, Kayo Freebies or SBS next year.

Update: Richard Craill will be the play-by-play voice for 10’s Australian Grand Prix coverage this weekend.

Thoughts on Foxtel & Kayo officially renewed the Formula 1 TV rights in Australia, with the free to air component still up for grabs

Also today, Foxtel/Kayo has officially renewed the Formula One broadcast rights for another few years here in Australia.

They will continue to air every practice, qualifying, and race exclusively live alongside the additional live in-camera views.

Although, they will also continue to share the annual Australian Grand Prix coverage with a free-to-air broadcaster as protected by the anti-siphoning law.

So nothing much apart from the F1TV app being installed into Foxtel’s interactive TV devices free of charge from next season.

And there is still no word on who will get the Australian GP coverage and the other round highlights for the Free TV component since Foxtel retained the bulk of the rights.

So rule out Nine when they wanted the whole lot by putting most of the races via their paid Stan Sport streaming service, with the Australian GP and a few selected events live on their free-to-air channel.

Then we go to the current Free TV rights holder at Network 10 where we don’t know for sure if they’re willing to continue this current agreement with Foxtel.

But they just lost MotoGP as well as the change of sports content strategy, with the example of the exclusive Australian Soccer rights they’ve just acquired alongside their paid in-house streaming service in Paramount +.

I don’t think there isn’t a good reason why Ten would want to continue airing Formula 1, when they only get to air one live race a year at home and everything else as one-hour highlights on a late Monday night.

That means, it’s only Seven and SBS now in a two-horse race for the Free TV package up for grabs just like the MotoGP.

We’ll keep an eye with interest on who will air the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix later this year at Phillip Island, as Foxtel/Kayo also holds the exclusive rights of MotoGP where their renewal agreement just began this year without Network 10.

But whoever airs that annual MotoGP race on home soil, we will hopefully step one closer & find out the Free-to-air rights holder here towards 2023.

Reflecting NFL’s big changes last week involving the return of Tom Brady & the change of broadcast teams over at FOX & ESPN/ABC

By Ryan Shah, 4th Down Report

For 41 days, the NFL thought it was safe. People were trying to accept the fact that Tom Brady was retired, trying to live with the fact that they wouldn’t see Brady dominate on their screens next season.

Saints, Falcons, and Panthers fans rejoiced and retained hope for the next season. But at the end of those 41 days, Tom opened up Twitter and let us all know that he’d be back. “I’ve realized my place is still on the field” he said, “I’m coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa.” The news spurred many different reactions from fans and players. Unsurprised, relieved, amused.

The only player not on the Bucs that was happy Tom Brady unretired was Jalen Ramsey. He tweeted, “THANK YOU! Throw that last touchdown on somebody else” of course referring to the NFC divisional round in which Tom Brady launched his “final” touchdown to Mike Evans late in the game, with Ramsey in coverage.

This past offseason has been crazy in terms of quarterbacks moving to new places. So many teams are QB needy, and the Bucs were one of them. With Tom Brady returning to the Bucs, that leaves one less hole to fill, making free agency a little less hectic. Because Tom Brady is back, many Bucs players have shown interest in returning to the team. Even Gronk, who was also expected to retire, is now expected to come back for another season to join Brady. The league was shaken up when Brady retired, and shaken once more when he returned.

Was Brady just playing around when he retired, knowing he’d be back? Or did he really spend time with his family for 40 days and say, forget this, I’m going back to doing what I love? Maybe he’ll let us be privy to that information when he retires for real. COVID has had a larger impact on the finances of the league than many people think. Because stadiums were closed, ticket and concession sales were nearly 0. The NFL revenue was low because of this, meaning the salary cap was also low. With ever-increasing contracts, teams were drowning with no financial breathing room. The league became desperate for new revenue streams to save the league.

One way to get revenue was through new TV deals. Broadcasting NFL games on new networks allows for the league to get paid more, by a greater number of networks. Amazon was a great example of this. Thursday night football is soon to be exclusively on Amazon Prime, something that Amazon is paying the NFL 1 billion dollars a year to do.

One huge thing that happened was Troy Aikman leaving FOX for ESPN. Aikman, who is especially well known in recent years for always being on Fox on Sundays, is leaving to join Peyton and Eli at ESPN. Joe Buck, his long time partner, soon followed him to ESPN. Other well known FOX TV personality Erin Andrews got emotional talking about the two leaving, saying “they became [her] family”. Many people are waiting to hear who the next big broadcasters for FOX will be. Kevin Burkhardt seems to be one of the favorites for the new job. Others want to see Gus Johnson and Aquib Talib take over as the main guys for FOX. Many candidates, but large shoes to fill.

https://twitter.com/calmdownpodcast/status/1505257986540941327?s=20&t=NX-6QF5d62PQHk8bUPIMuA

The NFL has also made deals with ABC again. ABC has been added back into the Super Bowl rotation, as they’ll air the 2027 and 2031 Super Bowls. They will also air one Monday Night Football game as a part of a Monday night doubleheader next year. In 2023, that number is set to rise from 1 to 3. The NFL seems to be slowly working ABC back into the mix as an experiment of sorts, seeing how viewership will change with ABC.

Will ABC eventually become as big to the NFL as FOX is? Will Erin Andrews leave FOX to join Aikman and Buck at ESPN? Will Tom Brady still be playing football at the age of 100? Only time will tell.

Thoughts on NASCAR on TV right now in Australia as the competition between paid streaming services heat up

In addition to IndyCar being aired on Free TV in Australia, NASCAR was also aired for free nearly a decade ago on Network 10’s former digital channel, One, when Australian Marcos Ambrose was around at the time.

But Fox Sports/Kayo only show highlights nowadays via subscription, while the only way to watch live and on-demand NASCAR here is the sport’s in-house paid Trackpass service.

If Stan Sport was to add NASCAR, it’s going to be a tough ask since NASCAR has a similar service here & both of them offer $20 a month unless NASCAR discontinues Trackpass for the Australian market. But it’s possible though, with Trackpass unavailable in New Zealand right now due to an exclusive streaming deal with Sky Sport to prevent direct competition.

Time will tell as Stan Sport has quickly increased their suite of motorsports content in no time against Foxtel/Kayo Sports’ offering of Formula 1, Supercars, World Superbikes & MotoGP.

P.S. Foxtel/Kayo now returned airing live NASCAR Cup Series races again predominately on Monday mornings this season, having aired selected races in 2020 & 2021 when the series was abruptly paused for a while between early March to mid-May due to COVID-19. I guess Foxtel/Kayo used the unexpected break when they got the revised agreement they wanted with NASCAR, as explained above in addition to highlights every week.

Then you look at the recent loss of IndyCar, Australian Superbikes, World Rally Championship & some Motocross rights to Stan, which opened the return of live NASCAR Cup racing for all races on Foxtel/Kayo. They just re-added them in a bid to boost competition and prevent subscribers from switching to Stan, so race fans can watch the best of motorsports on Kayo/Foxtel if they don’t want to pay more than one streaming service. There’s Formula 1, MotoGP, Supercars, World Superbikes, and AMA Supercross content there other than NASCAR Cup racing.

And regarding the Xfinity & Truck Series, there may be no plans to put them back on Foxtel/Kayo like it was in the past. However, Trackpass is still the only way to tune in to these other two national series, with both Trackpass & Foxtel/Kayo currently showing all Cup races live here in Australia.

What does the exclusive multi-year renewal of the MotoGP rights from Fox Sports/Kayo mean for Network 10 in Australia?

Image Reference: Box Repsol via Wikipedia, 16/5/21

Fox Sports/Kayo have retained the MotoGP broadcast rights in Australia for another few seasons during a press release early yesterday, but this time it’s under an exclusive deal through free and paid content.

That marks the end of Network Ten’s relationship with the sport as their Free to Air partner after 24 years when they first acquired the rights from the Nine Network back in 1997 & will still air eight Premier Class events left (Live) on 10Bold until the end of 2021.

Although there is a possibility that Network 10 could still the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix as part of the government’s anti-siponing laws that must be available for Free, but they will need to deal with Fox Sports/Kayo first rather than Dorna Sports, the sports’ commercial rights holder.

As it stands, Network 10 will only have one motorsports product after this year which is the Formula 1 with every round as highlights & one live race at home (not happening this year due to COVID).

Now these rights are also up for renewal at the end of 2022 in conjunction with Fox Sports/Kayo with no comment made at this stage but they have recently changed their sports strategy after the exclusive acquisition of Australian Soccer that will be available on their own Paramount + subscription for the majority as well as a game every week on 10.

So it’s probably unlikely from my assumption that 10 will just keep airing MotoGP as a one-off event at home alongside a shared paid TV partner, the same goes for Nine who launched Stan Sport as their paid OTT service earlier this year which leaves either Seven or SBS as the frontrunners for the annual Australian GP package.

It’s been great seeing Daryl Beattie provide his take on MotoGP for many years after he finished his professional riding career as well as the late Barry Sheene beforehand, plus there’s a couple of hosts to thank ranging from Bill Woods, Greg Rust, Mark Howard & at present until the end of this year both Sam Charlwood & Scott Mackinnon.

We will miss their contribution to MotoGP after the loss of Supercars & RPM at the end of last year with Formula 1 set to follow if not renewed, but there’s a bright future on 10 Sport when it comes to the Melbourne Cup, Soccer & potentially other products that can provide exclusivity on its own paid/free services.

Cricket News Australia on will Channel 7 stay or leave their cricket contract?

Image Reference: Wikipedia

It has been a great summer of cricket this season in Australia. With the off season of NASCAR approaches its finish line. Before the race cars return in 9 days at Daytona.

Late October-November was the month of the Women’s Big Bash League. Follows the Australia v India white ball series in late November-early December. Before the intense four-match Tests until the decider was made two weeks ago. And we are on the pointy end of the T20 Big Bash.

Despite the valuable offering Cricket Australia has showcased. And the test ratings even without Indian superstar Virat Kohli. There is still one party left unsatisfied. That is Channel 7 who currently holds the free to air rights.

They are on their third of sixth year contract since 18’. As they are contracted with Cricket Australia to cover the home games. Before entering a fourth with two years remaining by the start of next season. When the home five-match Ashes Test tour v England will take place.

Now the option to tear up its contact is still there. Seven hoped to have the solitary test v Afghanistan before the white ball leg. Not only COVID scrapped this one. But the value of the Big Bash was lost by a lack of star names. Plus natural venues & decline of crowds.

And Seven has not forgiven Cricket Australia about this. So does the Indian Cricket Board. In which is why they have put their claims to the courtroom. Seven wants to see the documentation made by Foxtel, CA & BCCI. So they know why the advantage over 7 to change these dates.

But Seven still loves the game though when it comes to the athleticism. And the talent involved. Especially when the red ball game provides top tier value for entertainment. So they hope to at least hang on this format that served so well.

They just wanted a discount to cover some losses caused by COVID. Before just running down the last two years of the current deal. And maybe Seven wants the Tennis back. As well as the NRL/State of Origin. Since they are fed up with CA which is the only party batting against.

While 7 may have talked so highly about the Tests. They have viewed the BBL as the contrary. Where the games have expanded a lot. As well as a lack of star power & crowds. Unlike Network 10 who turned this format from out of nowhere.

Image Reference: Wikipedia

That channel have everything as the exclusive partner to turn around. Such as making the BBL family friendly & make every game available on TV. Sorted out decent on-air staff. And shortened the games in the extended school holidays.

The former BBL rights holder would be glad right now. When the BBL value has fallen since they left. Made money via I’m a Celebrity get me out of here! Where the show runs for 4 weeks. In which is the best practice to make any product simpler & better. Rather than long & complicated.

Seven hoped to carry this legacy off Network 10. As well as Foxtel who did not complain a single thing. But not the way how it was handled these days. And they wanted to get rid of it immediately. Even before COVID. They tried to ask 10 to air the BBL again. But 10 said they will only do so if Foxtel can give up altogether.

That will not happen anytime soon unfortunately. Not even the current state of this cricket contract. Regardless of the saga result from Seven & CA. What Seven can do is offer all of their BBL games back to Foxtel. And transfer the Seven games on their Kayo freebies platform. But some people do not have the technology to make email accounts. Before watching it.

Will Foxtel accept this gamble pay off remains to be seen. If they are to buy the “Seven” games at least put it live for free via social media. And YouTube like Optus Sport does with the UEFA Champions/Europa League. Should Seven get what they want in court or rip out this contract.

And if Seven does walk away CA will have to find a new broadcaster. While 10 would want the whole lot. Channel 9 would like to return covering Tests. Despite having the current Tennis rights. But it would have to be on a reduced rate. Before any deal can be done with streaming involved.

Part 4 of 4 Interview, Stephen Hoiles on life under quarantine & working as a businessman, coach & pundit

Now, we look to conclude the four-part interview series with Randwick & Waratahs veteran who also represented for Australia, Stephen Hoiles, about what he has been up to recently under quarantine as the race to end the ongoing coronavirus continues.

In addition to his weekday job having retired from Rugby Union a few years ago, Stephen gets to reflect on what’s like to work as a pundit around a few ex-players and on-air hosts, whether it comes to live match-ups on weekends and mid-week shows in the studio.

And to wrap things up, how the change of on-air personnel affects him as well as the re-connection of these people after his TV station, Fox Sports oversaw this change in the lead up of the actual start of the 2020 Super Rugby Season five months ago.

Find out via the video link below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPmKinpHuk0&feature=youtu.be

I want to say a huge thank you to Stephen Hoiles for spending some time with me on the phone to talk about anything and everything about Rugby Union in Australia.

I look forward to seeing him on Fox Sports’ Rugby Union coverage via Kayo Sports live stream whenever the Rugby season resumes. Hopefully, I will get to interview you & help me out again from time to time here on Sports Benches.

For now, make sure that you follow Sports Benches via Social Media:

Note: The featured photo above as been approved to use by Stephen Hoiles himself.

Rugby: A rundown of the proposed 2021-2025 SANZAAR TV package for Rugby in Australia, who will win the rights?

Image Reference: Simon Sees via Flickr, 21/2/16, (CC BY 2.0)

After the end of this year, the new SANAAR TV Rights deal begins from 2021-2025.

So far, SuperSport will most likely continue to be on board for South African viewers while in New Zealand, Sky Sport followed a similar route as SuperSport’s having fended off a bid from rival TVNZ/Spark Sport.

The two heavily rugby focused countries can focus right now on making their organization bodies secure thanks to COVID-19.

Australia

On the other hand, Rugby Australia has yet to decide which broadcaster will hold rights over the next five years.

Likewise, the finalization of the bidding process is on hold due to COVID-19 plus we may know that the uncertain future of Raelene Castle after her poor leadership with this governing body could change everything in this bidding race.

It’s a hard take considering the popularity of this sport here is a lot behind compared to AFL & NRL.

And for the first time in a long time, the rights became open for anyone to bid rather than doing the exclusive first refusal talk with Fox Sports before going to anyone else.

Image Reference: BrianM91 via Wikipedia, 29/6/18, (CC BY 4.0)

Fox Sports

Fox Sports via FOXTEL boss Patrick Delany began scaling down funds on airing non-essential sports that don’t benefit the overall business.

Besides, they offloaded plenty of on-air staff as part of this overhaul.

The likes of Nick McArdle, Drew Mitchell, Sean Maloney, Lou Ransome & Nat Yolanndis had left before the new Super Rugby season started.

Instead, you see Greg Clark hosting/commentating, which for him the workload has increased this year rather than just calling alone over the past few years.

Alongside Clark, the original expert team has retained:

  • Tim Horan
  • George Gregan
  • Phil Kearns
  • Rod Kafer

Such a small group isn’t it.

And on a relief & pay per play basis, Andrew Swain is the only backup caller when Clark is unavailable as well as voicing the Super Rugby Highlights show on Monday nights.

So does Stephen Hoiles for NSW, ACT & VIC encounters & Greg Martin for QLD games, respectively.

The harsh reality about Fox Sports’ budget cuts is that they refused to bid higher for the next TV package than what they paid over the last five years.

It doesn’t mean they don’t want it regarding the content they produce but still want to be the frontline media source of rugby union in this country.

So in their opinion, cost shouldn’t be much of a priority for them.

For Rugby Australia, it is in a way to breed grassroots rugby & salary of their players both domestically and nationally.

That’s what made Rugby Australia upset their current partner to walk away from the process.

Image Reference: Simon Sees via Flickr, 21/2/16, (CC BY 2.0)

Optus

While Foxtel isn’t waiting forever to hear from Rugby Australia about their plans in the media, enter a new player to the race, Optus Sport.

This organization began airing sports content in 2016 when they first won the rights to broadcast the Premier League soccer in England from the hands of Fox Sports.

Since then, despite the 2018 FIFA World Cup technical issues, Optus built a stable key source for soccer fans across Australia to catch up with their favorite teams every week during the English season.

The domestic A-League competition doesn’t count as the popularity there isn’t strong as cricket & Tennis plus Optus doesn’t hold the rights too.

It’s not just the Premier League. They’re mainly focusing but also expanded to European soccer such as the UEFA Champions League & UEFA Europa League.

It’s quite clear to say that Optus is the new home of soccer in Australia, and there’s no doubt they will hold on the mantle for the next years to come.

Now Optus would like another sport they want to build on that can take off the particular content workload of soccer & that is rugby union.

If they do get the rights to all packages, then this will be a game-changer in an opportunity to provide a second established fan base & source to watch all of the rugby content after soccer in Australia.

Image Reference: Rugby Ball on the ground, Pikrepo, (CC BY 1.0)

What will the 2021-2025 TV SANZAAR package look like?

Firstly, The return of rugby magazine shows will be crucial for their fans to get into the know each mid-week as a preview of the Friday & Saturday games in which we haven’t seen like this since the end of 2018.

I know there’s a Monday Highlights package for all the Super Rugby games from Friday & Saturday, but again, there’s no insight on what lies ahead for the upcoming match-up ahead.

Secondly, whoever wins the rights; they can have a variety of games to keep their subscribers happy:

  • Friday Night: Super Rugby in New Zealand & Australia
  • Saturday Afternoon: Shute Shield/QLD Premier Rugby
  • Saturday Late Afternoon/Early Evenings: Super Rugby in New Zealand & Australia
  • Sunday Morning: Super Rugby over in South Africa & Argentina

If true, it would be awesome to buy these snacks off takeaway/groceries & enjoy a whole Saturday’s worth of kicking, passing & running with the Gilbert ball.

Once each Super Rugby portion is done and dusted, another fantastic part of winning the rights is airing International matches all year long, which will rate well involving the Wallabies playing at home.

Plus, we will see a new provincial Mitre 10 Cup-style competition involving combined semi-professional sides play each other that we usually see in separate Shute Shield/QLD Premier matches.

To everyone, it would be a massive step forward when some Wallabies stars give back to the local community of their stripes as well as the youth replicating their game at the same time, so there’s a good chance that they can become future Internationals too.

Image Reference: Kids practising a game of Rugby, PXfuel, (CC BY 1.0)

At the moment, the National Rugby Championship is a short run tournament, usually from late August to October.

Unfortunately, there’s not much promise to say regarding the lack of TV coverage here as well as the quality of players formed on state-based teams that Rugby Australia organized in this current provincial competition.

They now learned their lesson and want to change all of that in a way club rugby will most likely benefit the country’s Super Rugby & International squads outmuscle the elite so they can get the silverware they want, which hasn’t made it happen for a long time.

Anything else?

Other online sports platforms like Amazon, Rugby Pass & DAZN would be outside contenders.

These three companies have built a library of content focusing on several critical sports over the last few years.

While there’s no doubt that they can be a real threat to Foxtel & Optus, it will depend on how much cash they can offer to this governing body.

In regards to the interest amongst free-to-air networks, Nine and Seven aren’t interested as they’re happy with their NRL & AFL coverage, respectively.

So no change there unless Rugby Australia would want to make a separate bid for the Wallabies games only.

Image Reference: Richard Croft via Geograph.co.uk, 30/11/13, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Yes, it would like these two to think again and show how proud the country is performing against the world in rugby union.

But Rugby Australia would like to keep all eggs in one basket with one subscription & free to air partner.

ABC & SBS would prove to be too expensive to pay unless Fox Sports gives them a full match feed to simulcast, which will cost them $0 and no value amongst viewers to give back in the end.

Think about the A-League on ABC right now with no form of content on their own & being stuck with only Fox Sports, it’s not a good look for soccer in this country, and that’s a lesson Rugby Australia must learn to leave this idea.

And at last, Network 10, of whom has a great partnership with Rugby Australia since they’ve aired Wallabies games in 2013.

Also, they’ve assembled an excellent on-air crew too.

You’ve got the voice of Rugby in Gordon Bray as the primary caller alongside former Fly-Half and current 10 News First Sydney sports anchor, Matt Burke, in the booth.

Having added a delayed Super Rugby match on Sunday mornings alongside the home Wallabies games since 2016, they’d like to extend their relationship even further with one live game on Saturday night involving an Australian Super Rugby team.

Image Reference: BrianM91 via Wikipedia, 29/6/18, (CC BY 4.0)

It would be helpful for Network 10 to add a club rugby game like Shute Shield & QLD Premier Rugby as well as the proposed provincial championship on Saturday afternoons.

We all know the current Shute Shield/QLD Premier Rugby TV holders management will be under Rugby Australia next year.

But no linked sources are saying that Network 10 would be happy to add club rugby to their existing content at least one match a week on Saturdays alongside Wallabies & Super Rugby.

While this may be a bummer if you’ve watched plenty of club rugby TV, then your best bet would be to attend these games in person or subscribe to a service.

However, it’s an encouraging time right now for Network 10 to air a live Super Rugby match for the first time, which would be a huge step forward for the greater good of rugby in Australia.

That way, it’s healthy to have a balance of most content under a paywall while still retain some of the critical packages for free.

Image Reference: David Molloy via Wikipedia, 8/7/17, (CC BY 2.0)

Now once COVID-19 ends & the possible ousting of current Managing Director Raelene Castle, the race on becoming the Home of Rugby in Australia is still alive.

We just have to wait and see how the possible new TV partners will lift the sport to the next level in Australia over the next five years.

And to predict who will win the race, Optus will crown the pay-tv portion with all the games.

On the other hand, Network 10 will still be around with the usual Wallabies matches plus one Super Rugby live game, and if they can make Saturday’s great again, then finish off a good line of free content with Club Rugby almost all year long.