AFL posts A$17.8m net loss as viewers hit out at shrunken streaming
Australian rules football’s AFL recorded a net loss of A$17.8 million ($13.6 million) last year, the league has announced in its financial reports released today.
In 2016, AFL revenue increased by A$10.9 million to A$517 million but the league’s expenditure rose by A$18.9 million to A$186.9 million, in part due to the acquisition of the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne and the launch of a new women’s competition.
The AFL purchased the stadium in a deal worth around A$200 million, ensuring that AFL teams North Melbourne, Western Bulldogs, St Kilda, Essendon and Carlton can continue to use the stadium, having earlier faced the threat of eviction because of high-cost contracts with the stadium's previous owner James Fielding Funds Management.
Last year, the AFL distributed A$255.9 million to its 18 clubs, compared with $A245.2 million in 2015.
However, the AFL claims that it’s A$17.8-million loss was in line with its budget expectations for the year.
In a statement, the AFL said: "In his summary of the year, AFL Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said the AFL, through the work of the AFL executive and the commission, had achieved impressive results in each of its key indicators on the health of the game."
Meanwhile, Telstra, the telecoms firm, and its AFL Live video app have been criticised by viewers in Australia, after live streaming coverage on mobile devices of the opening match of the AFL’s pre-season competition was reduced to a seven-inch screen, as a result of the rights deals signed with Foxtel, the pay-television operator, Seven, the free-to-air broadcaster, and Telstra.
In 2015, the AFL generated A$2.508 billion from the sale of rights for the years 2017 to 2022, representing the biggest such sports agreement signed in Australia.
Under the deal, Telstra retained digital rights, including all hand-held devices and IPTV platforms, to AFL matches in a deal worth about A$300 million.
However, Telstra’s package only entitled it to a mobile screen size of seven inches for live matches and 12 inches for highlights, as Foxtel holds the rights to any coverage on a larger screen size.
Foxtel, is stumping up about A$1.3 billion between 2017 and 2022 to continue showing every game, with the exception of the Grand Final, on its Fox Footy channel.
The reduced screen size caused outrage on social media as fans took to Twitter to vent their frustration as the live stream of the friendly match between Collingwood and Essendon featured a significantly smaller display.
The first round of the AFL season begins on 23 March.