Channel 7 has heard the full voice of social media over the last week, with “AFLinHD” campaigner Josh Rowe releasing a series of confidential emails between him and the network’s Managing Director Lewis Martin.
The email thread, dating back to March this year, seemingly confirms Channel7’s plan to broadcast the 2014 AFL Grand Final in HD, which has since been reneged to the dismay of Rowe and his cause.
Since Rowe made the thread public, the unassailable campaigner has launched a social media operative to send a very clear message to Channel7 and the AFL. With over 70,000 Twitter followers behind him, Rowe has encouraged his supporters to use the hashtag #AFLinHD and tweet Channel7 commentators, and publically boycott the station’s broadcast sponsors.
The story has been picked up by a number of online publications including Mumbrella, Business Insider and the Daily Mail Australia, and it’s safe to say that Channel7 have a storm brewing on their hands.
While anti-siphoning laws force Channel7 to broadcast the Grand Final on their standard definition main channel, it does not prevent the station from also broadcasting from their HD channel, 7Mate.
We’re not going to comment on whether or not Channel7 should or shouldn’t broadcast the AFL in HD (we’d much prefer to be at the game anyway), and we’re not going to encourage anyone to boycott their sponsors, but we will say that this is a clear indication of the influence social media holds on the relationship between sport and traditional media.
The online influence in sport is incredible, with sites like Big Footy and Dream Team Talk attracting over 600,000 unique visitors per month. Big Footy’s “Footy Fourth Estate” forum, which allows AFL fans to discuss everything media related, contains over 3,500 individual discussion and more than 125,000 posts.
The demand to give the fans what they want cannot be ignored, and as seen, the most passionate and influential people gather on social media, and drive their messages from there.
We can only expect the force has been felt by Channel7, and next year, those of us not at the game, with a beer in one hand and a sausage in the other, can listen to the dolce tones of Brian Taylor and watch Australia’s game in crisp, clear HD.