The AFL is looking for a New Zealand TV partner to showcase its game and help it attract more fans this side of the Tasman.
The collapse of free-to-air network and AFL broadcaster Sommet Sports at the end of last year left a “bit of a hole”, which the league was determined to fill, AFL New Zealand chief executive Robert Vanstam said.
“There’s a number of ways we can entrench ourselves and probably the most important is ensuring there is television coverage,” he said.
“We want New Zealanders to get that feed on a daily basis.”
Head of broadcasting for the AFL Simon Lethlean confirmed there were ongoing talks over “broadcast solutions” in the wake of Sommet Sports folding.
But Sky TV has indicated there would be hurdles in any potential arrangement, due to varying match times.
A SKY spokeswoman said they were in talks with the AFL, but “with the length of games being several hours it can be more tricky to schedule and we want consistent scheduling from week to week”.
Sky Sports 4 were due to run an AFL double-header on Saturday, broadcasting live from Wellington, followed by Collingwood and Essendon in Melbourne. The network usually only hosts one game a week on delay.
Vanstam said he was confident of getting better TV scheduling to allow fans to regularly follow their favourite teams.
“I’m hopeful it will happen before the end of the season.”
Free-to-air and pay TV could both be suitable models, he said.
“Whatever model it is we need a model that works for a long period of time, so children can grow up watching it right up until the age they’re wanting to play.”
St Kilda’s strategic projects manager Ben Davies said live TV coverage was the main gap in the New Zealand market.
“That’s one area we’d like to try and address in the next 12 months and work with the AFL on finding a solution to increase the regular viewership. We know that contributes to greater awareness and greater involvement in the game. That’s probably the biggest thing for us at the moment.”
Sommet Sports went into liquidation in December 2014 and was unable to crowd source enough money to revive the channel.