There's no sugarcoating it, the final weeks of the AFL season were underwhelming. Not in the football itself, but in the way that they were delivered to the fans. The AFL's official broadcast partner needs to be looked at.
It's one thing to outbid the competition to win the rights to showcase these big events, but surely there needs to be some accountability for the quality and the manner in which these things are presented to the fans.
Things didn't start well for the AFL with the Brownlow Medal. In another tough year, with people locked in their houses, being able to watch the count provides somewhat of a distraction.
That is if you have an aerial.
Hopefully you weren't expecting the holders of the "exclusive rights to broadcast" to keep up with modern-day technology and broadcast the AFL's night of nights via their own streaming service.
With a bold call to instead put up three hours of International Border Security, it left the masses wanting.
The communication via a Tweet, that it couldn't be shown "due to rights restrictions", while plausible, was delivered too late. So late in fact, that the count was already up to Round 4.
So who did? The AFL's annoucements made it sound as though the major broadcast rights holder would be showing it. At the very least, it was extremely poorly communicated. Again.
The only hope for redemption was in the lineup for the Grand Final telecast, if not the broadcast itself. Live streaming on the app was promised, however this came with its own problems. The stream was unavailable for computers or mobile devices.
When it was communicated during the week that the game could be viewed on the app, there was cause for minor celebration.
The fact it was "being delivered in 720p" is nothing to get excited about, but at least everyone would have access. So long as they owned a smart TV or had an aerial.
The commentary lineup also left a lot to be desired. There's nothing wrong with some entertainment, but it would suit the occasion better to have at least one, well-researched, focused and perhaps different personality on the panel.
In an industry where every show and broadcast seems to contain at least two, if not three of the exact same type of person, some diversity would go a long way.
As a result, the AFL media industry is in danger of becoming like their US counterparts, where whoever shouts the loudest gets the spotlight.
Credit where it's due, they got something right by having Daisy Pearce on the broadcast. After receiving the Best Opinion/Analysis on TV/radio award earlier in the month, that would seem a common-sense decision.
However, with so many similar personalities working in the industry, those sorts of decisions are still no guarantee. It's refreshing to have someone as well-spoken and well researched as Daisy in the game.
Someone who comes well prepared, with no interest in gimmicks, to actually deliver insight is crucial. Many fans agreed, with some even going as far as to claim she had saved the broadcast.
It's no surprise Justin Leppitsch thinks she could be the first female coach in the AFL. With that in mind, there must surely be others like Pearce who are worthy of bigger roles.
Abbey Holmes has proven to be a great addition to any broadcast, while Kelly Underwood has been working tirelessly for 20 years and is still doing good work.
Tony Armstrong is another in the media doing fantastic work. With roughly 9% of the AFL being comprised of Indigenous players, it's a missed opportunity that there are so few commentators of Indigenous heritage.
Different perspectives bring different elements to a broadcast. It takes all types and it surely couldn't hurt to mix things up at this point. Fortunately, some steps are being made here, with Chris Johnson recently featuring more and more.
Finally, the less said about the podium work post-game, the better. There's really no excuse for denying a premiership coach the chance to speak. Another embarrassing moment for the broadcast.
The next question becomes, what does the AFL do about the way the game is presented? At expiry of these broadcast rights deals, do they opt for a swifter change in approach? Or continue with the same small and slow baby steps?
Relying on out-of-touch execs at failing free to air TV stations to present the pinnacle of your product might prove dangerous. The AFL might need to take matters into its own hands and ensure the coverage of the game is nothing short of the best.
See Also: Done deal, Tigers tall a Sun
Yes, it's understandable that nothing these days is free, so you get what you pay for. However, not every fan can afford to pay for every subscription. At a certain point, the league needs to value the way the product is delivered. Lately, it has been found wanting.
Just look at Australia Post. Things don't go well if you don't deliver properly. With the game severely impacted by the COVID pandemic, it's crucial the league makes the right decisions about its presentation.
A stronger focus on what the fans actually want, instead of those of the broadcaster, would be a welcome change. If nothing else, at least we'd have access to, and know, what's happening during games.