AFL rights: Seven and Foxtel remain footy’s best friends, but it comes at a cost

AFL rights

What else could Nine and 10 buy for $9.46b? Will Fox Footy fans get instant replays on all games?

As incumbent AFL rights holders, Seven West Media and Foxtel had the inside running to renew their contracts.

As outgoing AFL chief executive, Gillon McLachlan, detailed to Mediaweek before the 2022 season started, the football code’s preferred partners were the existing rights holders.

But maintaining the footy love affair has come at a substantial cost to both the FTA broadcaster and the subscription TV platform.

The money has climbed significantly in the past few years. The new deal is worth $4.5b over seven years to the AFL in cash and contra. McLachlan wouldn’t reveal the cash and contra split yesterday, but he said the cash component was worth over $4b.

The rights period-on-period increase has jumped from $473m a season during the current deal (2018-2022 inclusive) to $643m a year (2025-2031). For 2023-2024 Seven and Foxtel will pay a combined $946m, an extension negotiated during Covid when the outlook for live sport looked uncertain.

The AFL was able to push the bids from Seven and Foxtel higher with some eye-watering numbers on slips of paper pushed across the negotiating table by Nine Entertainment and ViacomCBS.

While no confirmations are available for either amount, Nine’s own newspapers reported Nine’s bid was around $500m for all rights annually. (Although The Australian has reported that Nine’s bid was actually higher. The paper also claimed Nine pitched the possibility of surrendering the NRL to claim AFL. Something Nine has denied.)

News Corp’s national daily has also shared what is said was the amount of the ViacomCBS bid – $6b for a 10-year all-rights deal.

What the new AFL football deal has done is lock out Nine and Stan plus global media players from access to Australia’s most sort after sporting rights for at least nine more years.

While Seven and Foxtel would have both preferred a smaller rights increase across the period of the contract, walking away from the sport that is the backbone of both their businesses was never an option.

AFL chairman Richard Goyder with Seven’s Kerry Stokes

New for Seven in AFL deal

What Seven gets now are the increasingly important digital streaming rights for its 3.5 games on average per round across the years. Seven viewers will be able to stream the matches Seven has every round plus all the final series on mobile devices.

An interesting question raised by this is will those 7plus games always carry the ad loading that FTA viewers see? Almost certainly, yes. But does Seven have the right to cut the ad loading on its streamed matches if sometime in the next nine years it decided to use the AFL as part of a 7plus subscription service?

Foxtel’s big spenders yesterday: CFO Stuart Hutton, chairperson Siobhan McKenna, CEO Patrick Delany and commercial and content chief Amanda Laing

What’s new for Foxtel’s footy fans?

Foxtel arguably needs the AFL as much or maybe more than Seven does. The sport has been key in a turnaround at the News Corp-owned television business. Kayo was launched as a sideshow for the Foxtel subscription service and the low-cost sports streaming platform has become a vital part of the business. Along with the entertainment offering Binge, they are powering Foxtel revenues and bringing in an additional huge audience ($2.81m at last count) that previously baulked at the cost of Foxtel subscriptions.

AFL rights: Questions, questions, questions

The outcome of the AFL rights negotiations raises an intriguing number of topics regarding the future of the major broadcast media players.

In particular, what is next for the underbidders?

Nine had an audacious bid of $520m annually delivered by chief executive Mike Sneesby this week. The unsuccessful grab for a new sport sees it pondering what else might Nine and Stan be able to do with $3.64m? It might be wondering now if it should have bid over the odds for things like Premier League or Formula 1. Does it now have cricket firmly in its sights?

Meanwhile, at Network 10 and Paramount+, they have again narrowly missed out on a top sport. 10 came oh-so-close to grabbing cricket rights in a previous negotiation, and now they too might wonder where they could possibly use $6b for other rights.

What it means for the footy fan

A football fan writes: What about the silence? The silence is the 30-45 seconds after a goal is scored when Seven goes to an ad break during one of their games and Fox Footy viewers have to wait until Seven returns live to see the replay. The commentators sometimes chat about the goal, other times there is an uneasy silence.

With Foxtel grabbing the rights to cover every AFL game with its own commentary team, does it also gain the power to program and control replays during a game?

Foxtel chief executive Patrick Delany mentioned getting a “clean feed” from Seven from 2025 onwards, but there is no detail yet of exactly what that means.

A frustration for many AFL tragics is while paying for the major games on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday that are Seven games, they have to sit through replay-free moments immediately following the climatic moments of AFL matches.

See also:
Seven and Foxtel retain the AFL broadcast rights in new deal

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