Foxtel eyes early deal to extend AFL rights to fend off Nine
Foxtel, the Australian pay-television operator, is looking to strike an early extension to its broadcast deal with Australian Rules football’s AFL to fend off any rival bid from Nine Network and its new sports streaming platform Stan Sports, it has been reported.
Foxtel’s bid for full rights to Rugby Australia’s cache of competitions was beaten earlier this month by Nine and Stan Sports in a three-year deal worth A$100 million ($72 million). Foxtel and commercial broadcaster Network Ten previously held rights in a five-year deal worth a total of A$285 million.
Nine and Stan Sports also secured rights to two tennis grand slam tournaments, the Wimbledon Championships and the French Open, until 2023, which were also previously held by Foxtel.
Nine will launch Stan Sports as a separate paid product sitting alongside the existing Stan general entertainment streaming service early next year with the start of its rights deals.
In a bid to shore up its existing content deals, Foxtel has notified the AFL it wishes to start negotiations to extend its rights deal in a move that would prevent Nine and Stan Sport from buying up more competitions, according to Australian newspaper The Age.
Foxtel shares the rights to the AFL with commercial broadcaster Seven and telecoms giant Telstra in a six-year deal worth A$2.5 billion that was due to run until 2022.
Due to calendar disruptions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, Foxtel and Seven secured a reduction on this year’s payments. Seven also agreed a two-year extension under improved terms, however, the pay-TV operator decided not to extend its arrangement beyond 2022.
Citing industry sources, the newspaper said Foxtel chief executive Patrick Delany has contacted the AFL to discuss extending its current deal and preliminary discussions about how much the AFL rights are worth have already started internally at the company.
It is unclear whether AFL chief executive Gillion McLachlan will agree to start broadcast rights talks early or will wait until late next year to increase competition between the broadcasters.
Earlier this month, Hugh Marks, Nine chief executive, said the company would look to grow Stan's offering and buy up more sports rights.
Meanwhile in August, Robert Thomson, global chief executive of Foxtel parent company News Corp, said the pay-TV operator plans to save at least A$180 million from reduced sports broadcast rights fees over the next three years.
Foxtel has faced financial challenges due to the suspension of sport and closure of pubs and clubs during the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected its subscriber base. As a result, it was forced to stand down more than 200 staff and cut more than 300 jobs earlier this year.