Seven and Foxtel retain domestic AFL broadcast rights until 2031
Delany McLachlan and Warburton
In the biggest media deal in Australian sporting history, the AFL announced on the 6e September that Channel Seven and Foxtel retained the Australian national broadcast rights to the men’s and women’s competitions for another seven years, fending off challenges from rival channels Nine and 10. The new deal, which expires at the end of the 2031 season, is worth a total of 4.5 billion Australian dollars (3.08 billion US dollars) to an average of 643 million Australian dollars per year, a sharp increase from the figure of 473 million Australian dollars per year for the extension of two-year contract that Seven and Foxtel signed with the League in 2020, at the peak of the COVID pandemic. The previous rights deal from 2017 and 2022, also with Seven and Foxtel, was worth A$2.5 billion.
It was the first time 10 had been involved in a bid for the broadcast rights since the 2011 AFL Grand Final was last televised; the first time 10’s new owner Paramount Global (parent company of CBS and Paramount Pictures) has been involved in negotiations, and the first time four of Australia’s streaming platforms – Kayo (owned by Foxtel), 7plus (owned by Seven’s parent company, Seven West Media), Stan (owned by Nine) and Paramount+ (owned by Paramount) – were represented in the negotiations, signaling the growing importance of streaming in live sports.
Foxtel and Seven will pay the majority of the A$4.5 billion in cash, with the remainder in consideration and advertising. While Foxtel will contribute the bulk of the rights fee increase, Seven will pay a 14% increase on 2023-24 rights in 2025; with indexation over time, this represents a compound annual growth rate of 3.6% in rights fees over the period. According to veteran football journalist Caroline Wilson, Paramount offered to pay A$6 billion over 10 years to televise matches through 10 and Paramount+, while Nine’s offer was A$525-535 million a year. , plus an additional A$100 million in marketing using Nine’s assets (including newspapers The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and radio stations like Melbourne’s 3AW). Both offers were unsuccessful.
Under the new deal, Seven will be able to stream network-produced AFL and AFLW games, as well as the Brownlow Medal, and all AFL and AFLW Finals (including the Grand Final) for the first time on 7plus, for subscribers. Australians. Seven was heavily criticized by footy fans for not paying more for streaming capacity in the 2017-2022 broadcast rights deal, ostensibly to protect the interests of Foxtel and co-owner Telstra, which offered the broadcast live with the AFL Live Pass and WatchAFL. outside of Australia. The Live Pass merged with Kayo at the start of the 2021 AFL season. In exchange for live streaming via 7plus, Seven will not be able to broadcast Saturday night games in the first eight rounds of the regular season (except Anzac Eve, Anzac Day and Dreamtime at ‘G should they fall on a Saturday), allowing Foxtel to create an exclusive range of Saturday games under the Super Saturday brand.
The features of the new domestic broadcast agreement are as follows:
- The AFL will retain control of the scheduling of men’s and women’s matches, including the Grand Final schedule.
- During the AFL regular season, Seven will continue to televise matches on Thursday nights, Friday nights, select Saturday nights, Sunday afternoons, as well as marquee matches (Dreamtime at the ‘G, Anzac Day Eve, Anzac Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday and Queen’s Birthday) and at least three additional marquee games, such as the season opener and the Queen’s Birthday Eve.
- Seven will televise Thursday night games through the first 15 rounds of the regular season, select marquee games on Saturdays from round 9 through round 15, and one Saturday night game each week through the final eight rounds.
- Foxtel will provide its own line-ups and graphics for every AFL/AFLW Regular Season game, every AFL and AFLW Finals (excluding the AFL Grand Final) and all Pre-Season games.
- Foxtel and Kayo will live stream every AFL/AFLW regular season game, every AFL Finals (excluding the Grand Final), all pre-season games and AFL and Premier League events. ‘AFLW, including draft and awards nights, excluding the Brownlow Medal. They will televise all AFLW Finals (including the Grand Final) late.
- Seven and 7plus will broadcast live at least 30 AFLW Regular Season matches per year, as well as all AFLW Finals, including the Grand Final, with local market substitution rules.
- Outside of Victoria, the match involving the home team will be shown live in the local market on Seven and 7plus, with the exception of some matches which will be shown delayed for up to two hours. (While some matches involving clubs from South Australia and Western Australia had been delayed on Seven since 2017, the new arrangement will also affect matches involving clubs from NSW and Queensland.)
- Under the new broadcast deal, telecommunications company Telstra has retained digital rights to AFL and AFLW until the end of the 2031 season. Telstra will build on its investment in Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium and expand to the League’s innovation and digital offerings through the AFL/AFLW apps and 18 club websites.
At the press conference in Melbourne announcing the new broadcast deal, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said the same number of games would continue on free-to-air TV, with changes to the number of Thursday night games and Saturday evening. McLachlan said the deal would also help make gaming affordable and keep ticket prices low, adding: “I think people understand that we are becoming more and more digital. People’s viewing habits are changing… We need to revisit our deal and think about what our partners want, where it’s going, and our ability to monetize this and this and other areas.McLachlan said the League would use the money from the new contract to pay for Tasmania’s proposed 19th franchise, as well as women’s and community football programmes.
Seven West Media CEO and Managing Director James Warburton said:We are delighted to extend our partnership with the AFL until 2031. Securing a full package of AFL digital rights for 7plus was our absolute goal. For the first time, fans will be able to access the best AFL games and video content, live and for free, in a way that suits them. … More importantly, this new combination of broadcast and digital means that SWM will be uniquely positioned to drive and capture a significant share of the growing total TV market..” He also called AFL rights “the most important content money can buy” and the broadcaster had managed to strike an incredibly difficult agreement with all the competition. Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes, who joined the press conference via video link from Perth alongside AFL commission chairman Richard Goyder, said he was delighted to continue the relationship with the AFL and that now every city had access to free-to-air football. Stokes said one of the reasons Seven’s partnership with the AFL had been so successful over the years was due to the shared love of the game.
Foxtel Group Chief Executive Patrick Delany said the new rights deal was great news for sports fans who love Foxtel and Kayo, and would extend the company’s 20-year relationship with the AFL, which began in 2002 when it first aired game shows in association with Nine and 10. Delany said the pay-TV company “…continue to bring the highest quality analysis, programming and entertainment as well as innovation in production to record audiences and, in turn, deliver unprecedented growth to the AFL.”
The battle for new AFL broadcast rights began in March this year when Gillon McLachlan flew to the United States, visiting the headquarters of Amazon, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Paramount Global, to assess their interests in streaming football games. Major talks between the AFL and Foxtel, Seven, Nine and Paramount began in June, before the broadcasters submitted their final offers at League headquarters in Melbourne on Monday 5e September. An agreement with Seven and Foxtel was reached in the early hours of Tuesday, before a press conference was held in the afternoon.
Sources: afl.com.au; theage.com.au, Jacqui Abbott, Foxtel press release; Rob Sharpe, Seven West Media Press Release