“There is a bit on this year,” Eddie McGuire told Mediaweek recently in Melbourne. The TV/radio host who also doubles as a company chairman, and president of AFL club Collingwood, is close to being revealed as the host of a new project which will again stretch his workload to the limit.
Just over a week before the start of the AFL season, Fox Footy host and commentator McGuire is full of anticipation about what lies ahead: “At this stage of the year before the footy you just can’t wait for it to start. It promises to be an amazing season with so many teams so close.”
Although he works across different genres, sports is the broadcaster’s main passion. McGuire has been covering the AFL for a long time and he’s a proud carrier of a media pass for 42 years. “Luckily I still get the same excitement as I did when I was 13.
“You look at how sophisticated the AFL media coverage is now – they all do a great job. From Fox Footy to Seven to all the radio stations. It has just got bigger every year.”
His latest role seems like it will be hosting an additional midweek episode of Footy Classified on Nine, a program his company Jam TV makes for the network. However as Nine has yet to officially announce it, he can’t formally discuss the project.
However if he did take on another footy hosting job, he told how he cleared it with Foxtel.
McGuire said he would he like to host another footy show on Nine after the demise of the Thursday edition of The Footy Show.
“Fox Sports would have to sign off on it, but it wouldn’t be in competition with them. If it was to go to air when people are speculating it might, it would be later in the night.
“My sporting work is with Foxtel, Fox Sports and Fox Footy. I already had an agreement with Nine that Foxtel signed off on for me to go back and host the Footy Show.
“Patrick Delany, Peter Campbell and I sat down and we found a solution in that we could promote Fox Footy through the shows I am hosting for Nine.”
McGuire was hard to pin down when asked about his contracts with Nine and Foxtel. He famously had a lucrative contract with both, but he advised us he never speaks about that now.
However regarding the type of agreement he has, McGuire explained. “All we have is a handshake…and I think I am the last of them. I have a handshake with everybody. Lawyers get in the way and make contracts too hard these days.”
Fox Footy duties
“I will host the Thursday night or Friday night coverage from the studio depending on what Collingwood is doing. I will also call a game on a weekend and do whatever they need me to do in between.”
Although McGuire is perhaps better known as a host, he notes being a match commentator was what he always wanted to do when he was a kid. “For all the years doing the football, it was only when I got to Friday night AFL on Nine that I got to call it on the television. I had called a lot on radio and we founded Triple M football over 20 years ago.
“My first ever call was in 1987 at the Battle of Britain game with Bruce McAvaney. It was my first trip overseas and when I landed in London we made the front page of The Guardian when the game got out of control and the place went mad. [The exhibition game featured many punch-ups.] My first AFL game was when Collingwood won in 1990.”
McGuire lists among his sporting commentator idols race caller Bill Collins and footballer-turned-commentator Lou Richards. “To me they all seemed to have the best lives. When I found out that Lou Richards was a premiership captain of Collingwood and also owned a pub I thought what is there he cannot do!”
Just days after hosting the recent combined Fox Footy/Seven coverage of the Bushfire charity State of Origin game, McGuire is hopeful of getting it back as a regular event. But not just one game, and not every year.
“I was involved with [AFL CEO] Gil McLachlan and some other AFL people in deciding to hold that game as the president of a club.
“The 1988 Bicentennial Carnival is the template for the future – all states play over a two-week period. Pre-season is the best time of year to hold it. It could be held perhaps every three years. You should pay the players properly. In TV, everybody is looking for good event television. You could have cities bid for the carnival to fill their stadiums up.”
Nine’s game show king
McGuire’s biggest TV role is holding down a critical hour for the Nine Network at 5pm each weekday hosting the game show that leads into the 6pm news.
“The east coast figures are fantastic for Millionaire Hot Seat. It kicked big time toward the end of last year and also so far this year.”
McGuire records the shows in blocks to keep Nine stocked with programming inventory. “We recorded 12 last week and I am doing another six tomorrow.”
Breakfast radio with Triple M
“It’s going great guns,” said McGuire before we asked him about the ratings. Was 2019 a challenging year in the ratings? “The ratings are all over the place. We started the year #1 for the first couple of surveys. According to the survey in Grand Final week we dropped and then went up the next survey. We finished #1 FM in the only demographic that counts for Triple M – 25-54 men.
“I get a bit jaundiced with people not understanding how radio works. It is completely different to TV and we pitch our content to a certain demographic.
“Our show is a small part of 24 hours at Triple M and then we control one third of that timeslot and they control the ads and the music. Triple M experimented with the music last year. Our podcast last week apparently did record numbers.
“We have a different show this year with a different line-up. [Wil Anderson left at the end of 2019.] It is probably more news-based and we have broken big stories every day.
“We have been on air for 10 years and when you average it out we have been #1 for 10 years.”
McGuire’s production company Jam TV
McGuire didn’t want to comment on speculation about a TV show being pitched by Jam TV to Amazon Prime Video covering all AFL clubs.
It sounds like a good idea, we suggested. “Hopefully it comes to fruition for everybody. It would be amazing for the AFL to be the focus of an international documentary series as we have seen in other spots like Formula 1 and English football.”
When asked about the production company structure, McGuire described it as “just a family business”. Jam TV makes Footy Classified, The Sunday Footy Show, Millionaire Hot Seat for Nine and A Moveable Feast for Seven. “We are not a listed business like Crocmedia and we just quietly go about our business.”
Top Photos: Eddie McGuire with Richmond Premiership coach Damien Hardwick at Fox Footy 2020 launch