Seven also has been trialling the artificial use of crowd noise in preparation for the return of the AFL, but Martin said the network – which is trialling a number of different approaches to broadcasting in the crowd-free COVID-19 environment – would not innovate “for innovation’s sake.”
“That’s one thing we’re working through,” Martin said of sound effects in the broadcast of games without crowds. “There’s so many ideas. We’re certainly looking at a number of innovations.
“In terms of commentary, we’re looking to have our commentators call off tube, in a remote location.”
Martin, who has oversight of the Seven coverage, said Seven had already trialled calling the game remotely in round one when Greater Western Sydney hosted Geelong. He confirmed that the games would be directed and commentated on from Seven’s Melbourne studio, in what was a nod to occupational health and safety.
“You’ll have someone local but the broad commentary and direction is in a remote location … that’s more about the COVID environment.
“I’m looking to minimise head count on location.”
For Seven, the insertion of sound effects is thought to make less of a difference to the viewers when games are tight.
Seven will have its traditional Friday and Saturday nights, plus the Sunday afternoon games at 3.20pm (Australian eastern time) or thereabouts that lead into the network’s news bulletin. Thursdays nights will be important for the AFL and have been shared between Seven and Foxtel, though it is unclear how those games – and potentially Wednesday nights – would be divvied up if the league fixtures Wednesday night games as a means for compressing the season.
“We’ve got multiple scenarios and it’s in the hands of the authorities and the AFL,” said Martin, who said Seven had a preference for games to be broadcast at “metro stadiums” – the established current AFL venues – rather than suburban grounds.
The Seven Melbourne boss could not confirm whether the commentary line-ups – such as Wayne Carey, Bruce McAvaney and Taylor on Friday nights – would remain the same when the season resumed, because Seven did not do rosters until they had a fixture.
But he said Seven had not shed any of its AFL commentary team this year.
Under the broadcast agreement, Seven did three-and-a half-games per round, and Foxtel broadcast five-and-a-half – the “half” including a mixture of Thursdays and public holiday games such as Anzac Day and Queen’s Birthday. But the loss of those days and Easter Monday means there will be revised arrangements for the broadcasters.
Martin said he did not know if Seven would have the same tally of matches per round. “I don’t know. It will depend on their (AFL’s) philosophy,” he said.
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.