Seven takes a punt on the NFL

Following on from the Seven Network’s recent deal to broadcast Gaelic football and hurling on 7mate, Seven has announced a five year agreement to broadcast America’s National Football League (NFL) on Channel Seven and 7mate.

Under the agreement, Seven will broadcast three consecutive games on Sunday, ending with the blockbuster NFL Sunday Night Football, all coming in LIVE into Australia on 7mate on Monday. The agreement with Seven includes marquee NFL games such as the traditional Kick-off game and Thanksgiving NFL matches and LIVE coverage of the NFL Playoffs and Super Bowl. Previously the Super Bowl and NFL regular season matches could be seen on free-to-air on Network Ten’s ONE.

7mate will also telecast other NFL programmes, including Hard Knocks, Sound FX, A Football Life, Road to the Super Bowl, Road to the Playoffs and America’s Game: The Super Bowl Champions. Seven has also acquired online and Hybrid Broadcast Broadband Television rights for select NFL programming and video clips on its primary digital properties.

What makes this deal especially interesting is that it does not just include broadcast rights. The NFL has appointed Seven as its digital advertising representative for and in Australia. This is similar to Yahoo!7’s role as the exclusive Australian sales representative for advertising across the V8 Supercars websites. This deal was an extension of the partnership between V8 Supercars and Channel Seven (as the broadcast rights holder – note: Seven’s broadcast rights expire at the end of the current V8 Supercars season with Foxtel and Ten taking over the broadcast rights from next year).

Under Seven’s NFL deal, it will also promote the NFL Game Pass digital subscription product.

Seven’s Head of Sport, Saul Shtein, said:

“…We are looking forward to working with the NFL and its other media partners to deliver all-encompassing coverage across a number of our broadcast platforms.”

Kurt Burnette, Chief Revenue Officer for Seven said that the new deal:

“…will offer a number of new opportunities across our multiple channel platform for our audiences and our advertising partners.”

While Seven’s press release makes no mention of other opportunities that Seven and the NFL might work on in Australia, it would not be surprising to see Seven build on its new relationship with the NFL by seeking to have NFL pre-season or regular season matches played on Australian soil.

We have seen recently US-based sports grow in popularity in Australia to the point where in March the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCGhosted Major League Baseball’s Opening Series between the L.A Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks (see our article on the #openingseries here). The venture was an outstanding success with more than 100,000 people attending the four days of baseball at SCG and more than 25,000 arriving from interstate or overseas. The now former NSW Minister for Tourism and Major Events Minister George Souris said in March that the Opening Series matches were viewed by a worldwide television audience of at least 150 million people. This sought of exposure for Australia’s major cities through sport cannot be underestimated.

The success of the MLB Opening Series in Sydney has led to talk of more domestic US sport matches being played in Australia. Fairfax Media has recently reported that Nine Entertainment Co has entered talks with the National Hockey League to bring two North American teams to Australia.

While we are only speculating at this stage, the prospect of Seven partnering with the NFL to deliver pre-season or regular season NFL games on Australian soil is mouth-watering. The NFL now has more than just a free-to-air broadcast partner in Australia.  It is clear that Seven want to leverage its new deal with the NFL across multiple platforms and what better way to do this than by bringing NFL matches to Australia.  This would no doubt present huge growth opportunities for the NFL in Australia and also allow Seven to leverage its NFL rights with a truly local connection, which is likely to capture the imagination of the sporting public and deliver strong opportunities for Seven’s advertising partners. The NFL has played series in London before, next stop on the itinerary should be Australia.

Australia’s traditional media players such as Seven, Nine and Fairfax continue to diversify business streams to deliver partners integrated opportunities (think of Fairfax Media Event’s City2South or Nine’s Allphones Arena and Ticketek businesses). The new deal between Seven and the NFL evidences the newfound opportunities that traditional media players have available to them by offering prospective partners more than just a broadcast platform.

Lets hope this new deal leads to NFL pre-season or regular season matches being played in Australia soon.


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