The AFL has this evening announced a record $2.508 billion, six-year broadcast rights deal with News Corp Australia, Seven West Media and Telstra. Heavy-hitters were out in force at the press conference announcing the new deal with AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan joined by Rupert Murdoch, Robert Thomson and Kerry Stokes, amongst others.
The new deal, which will run from 2017 to 2022, sees the AFL continue to retain full control of the production of the match fixture, including the scheduling of the Grand Final. A standard round will continue to consist of 9 matches.
Outside of Thursday night matches, and public holiday schedules and bye/split rounds, the AFL competition will have:
- 1 Friday night game;
- 2 Saturday afternoon games;
- 1 Saturday twilight game;
- 2 Saturday night games;
- 2 Sunday afternoon games; and
- 1 Sunday twilight game.
In terms of which broadcaster will broadcast what matches, the breakup is as follows:
The Seven Network holds the Free to Air rights, which includes:
- the Toyota AFL Grand Final exclusively live nationally;
- the Brownlow Medal count exclusively live nationally;
- all matches in the Toyota AFL Finals Series live nationally; and
- during the Toyota AFL premiership season, Seven will broadcast:
- each Friday night match live nationally;
- one Saturday night match live nationally; and
- one Sunday afternoon match in the 3.20pm Eastern Time zone slot live nationally.
While this is similar to Seven’s current broadcast deal with the AFL, the major change will see the Seven Network lose a Saturday afternoon match and instead telecast 11 games live across the season that are played on public holidays, the eve of public holidays such as Anzac Day / Easter Thursday and between 5-6 Thursday night games.
The outcome is that Seven will broadcast an average 3.5 matches per round across the season, which is half a game less than it currently does. For NSW/QLD fans, matches involving local teams will continue to be shown on free-to-air (presumably 7mate).
While in WA and SA, matches involving local teams will be shown on free-to-air TV, but three matches for each team in the premiership season will be broadcast on a delayed basis (these matches will be exclusively live on pay TV).
For the subscription/pay tv rights, News Corp Australia has acquired those rights, meaning Fox Footy channel (available via Foxtel) will:
- broadcast all nine games live of each round of the premiership season;
- produce the broadcast for an average of 5.5 matches per round;
- three matches exclusively live each season involving WA and SA based teams; and
- with the exception of the Toyota AFL Grand Final, all other matches in the Toyota AFL Finals Series will be broadcast live.
Interestingly, News Corp Australia has retained the right to sub-licence one game per round each weekend, which would be played in the Saturday Eastern time zone slot of 3.20pm, to a free to air provider.
It is likely that News Corp Australia will look to sell this game to Network Ten, presuming that Foxtel’s proposed investment in Ten is approved by regulators. Although News Corp CEO Robert Thomson, said on the sub-licence option that:
“We’ve got the option to do that and we will do what it’s in the best interest of the AFL and News Corporation.”
Also under the deal, for the first time Fox Footy will deliver games on all devices via Foxtel’s mobile app Foxtel Go and its Foxtel Play service.
Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of News Corp said of the new deal (at the press conference) that:
“We’ve always preferred Aussie rules and we’ve always believed this is the premium code in Australia.”
Telstra, under the new deal, has retained the AFL rights for all hand-held mobile devices, the AFL website – afl.com.au, the club digital network and IP television.
It has been a big two weeks in broadcast rights news with the NRL last week announcing a $925 million dollar free-to-air rights deal with the Nine Network Australia for four live games on free-to-air each round, including State of Origin broadcast rights. It will now be interesting to see how the NRL goes about selling its remaining rights given the commitments that News Corp Australia and Telstra has today made to the AFL.