Australian rules football’s AFL has secured the “biggest sports broadcast rights deal in Australian history” after extending with pay-television operator Foxtel, commercial broadcaster Seven West Media, and telecoms giant Telstra for another seven seasons.
The renewed long-term agreement is worth a total of A$4.5 billion ($3 billion), AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has revealed.
This equates to A$643 million a season – a significant uplift on the $473 million per season under the terms of the current two-year deal with Foxtel and Seven that ends after the 2024 campaign.
Seven said it would pay a 14% increase on the 2024 rights in 2025 and that “with indexation over the term this represents a 3.6% compound annual growth rate in rights fees across the period.”
The last major broadcast deal between the parties – covering free-to-air and subscription television, and online streaming – was signed in August 2015 and was worth $2.5 billion over six years from 2017 to 2022.
In 2020, the existing deals with Seven, Foxtel, and Telstra were revised and extended until the end of 2024 for a total of $946 million to “provide certainty as the league rebuilt its finances after the initial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
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The trio beat off strong competition to keep the rights after bids were also submitted by Paramount, owner of Australian commercial broadcaster Network Ten and subscription streaming service Paramount Plus, and commercial network Nine Entertainment.
In one of his final major moves as chief executive of the AFL, McLachlan opted to renew the relationship with the broadcasters after meeting with all bidders on Monday to hear final pitches.
The league said Paramount, Nine, and streaming service Stan also made “significant plays” for the rights.
The three-month negotiation process for the 2025-31 cycle concluded today (September 6).
"This partnership is an incredible result, unprecedented and the biggest in Australian sport."
— AFL (@AFL) September 6, 2022
McLachlan said: “Footy is the greatest game in the world and we have the best broadcast partners and our announcement today is the biggest partnership in the history of Australian sport.
"We are very proud to once again be hand in hand with Seven Network, Foxtel, Kayo, and Telstra. It will provide unprecedented levels of financial support to invest more in the sport."
Seven and Fox Sports will continue to jointly broadcast games, a partnership they have held since 2011.
Under the extended deals, Seven and its 7Plus streaming platform will provide live and free-to-air coverage of the AFL on Thursday nights, Friday nights, selected Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoons, as well as ‘marquee’ matches, the Brownlow Medal, all AFL Finals, and the AFL Grand Final.
Seven will broadcast Thursday night games in each of the first 15 rounds of the season and Saturday night matches in the last eight rounds.
The commercial broadcaster will show all marquee matches live and free-to-air (Dreamtime, Anzac Eve, Anzac Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Queen’s Birthday), as well as at least three additional marquee matches – such as the season opener and Queen’s Birthday Eve.
In addition, at least 30 home and away games from the women’s AFL (AFLW), the AFLW finals, and the AFLW Grand Final will be aired on Seven and 7Plus.
Last month (August) the federal government weighed in on the negotiations, asking the governing body to keep games available to watch on free-to-air TV.
Meanwhile, All AFL and AFLW home and away games and finals (excluding the AFL Grand Final) will be broadcast on Foxtel and its Kayo streaming platform, along with all pre-season matches.
Foxtel and Kayo will also exclusively broadcast a 'Super Saturday' of games in each of the first eight rounds of the season (with the exception of Anzac Eve, Anzac Day, and Dreamtime if they were to fall on a Saturday), in addition to all AFL events including the AFL draft and awards nights (excluding the Brownlow).
The AFL will retain control of the timing of the Grand Final.
McLachlan announced in April that he will step down at the end of the year after the ongoing 2022 season, which began in March and finishes on September 24.
Peter Scrimgeour, senior analyst at GlobalData, said: "The record-breaking sports broadcast rights deal with the incumbent broadcasters is an incredible result for the AFL.
"The national popularity of the sport attracts huge television audiences (the AFL Grand Final was the highest-watched television program in Australia in 2021), which unsurprisingly led to intense competition for the rights from rival broadcasters and their streaming partners Nine Entertainment (Channel Nine/Stan) and Paramount (Network Ten/Paramount+), driving up the price and ensuring the AFL gained a sizeable increase.
"While a massive win for all stakeholders, it is a big win for fans, as the new agreement, a 36% increase on the current deal (which was signed at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic at reduced value), retains the same number of games to be broadcast on free-to-air TV each season."