Extended AFL TV deals protect Seven & Foxtel against predators

Tegan George

Limited 2021 Thursday night clashes, Stan and telcos locked out of streaming rights

The AFL’s recent announcement about extended AFL TV deals with broadcast partners Foxtel and Telstra will see both extend their coverage rights by two years across the 2023 and 2024 seasons. It stops an AFL broadcast rights negotiation circus in 2021, pushing it back to 2023.

Seven had extended its deal with the AFL earlier in 2020. That gave breathing space to Seven just as Nine started looking for more sports rights it could share between its FTA business and the new Stan sports offering.

Foxtel also has breathing space from the threats from streaming platforms, telcos, and even possible interest from global sporting bodies like ESPN or Discovery-owned Eurosport who could use AFL to expand in the Australian market.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said the new extended broadcast deals would deliver $946 million to the AFL industry over the two years.

He said the extended partnership with Foxtel and Telstra was a huge vote of confidence in the ongoing strength of the game and its future.

“After a challenging year, this is a great way to finish off 2020 and is a massive vote of confidence in the AFL, our players and our code at all levels. It provides greater financial certainty in the years ahead, ensures our fans continue to have the ability to watch men’s and women’s footy wherever they are,” McLachlan said.

“Fox, Telstra and Channel Seven’s long-term partnerships expose our game to the biggest audience in the country and brings footy fans the very best content on-demand wherever and whenever they need via television, streaming and digital.”

Terms of the extended agreement

Foxtel will extend its coverage of AFL to cover the 2023 and 2024 Toyota AFL Premiership seasons and the NAB AFLW seasons with all games during the home and away season shown live.

Foxtel will continue to broadcast all Premiership Season matches live on subscription television and digital platforms (Kayo, Foxtel Go, Foxtel Now) in 2023-24, as well as having replay and highlight rights.

Telstra continues its partnership through the 2023 and 2024 seasons, with highlight, replay and on demand rights while increasing their investment in sponsorship assets.

Telstra will become Marvel Stadium’s official technology and innovation partner over the next four years, ensuring the revamped Marvel Stadium offers supporters the best digital experience of any stadium or entertainment venue in the country and ensuring supporters have the technology to connect them to the game they love.

Telstra technology and connectivity will be deployed at Marvel over the next few years including fixed and 4G/5G networks upgrades, Artificial Intelligence, and mixed reality and edge computing. From booking a seat to parking to engaging with the game, attendees will soon be able to experience a new stadium experience before, during, and after they attend the game.

Telstra will also expand its visual sponsorship elements such as on-field Telstra 5G signage, and continue the development of the AFL’s digital assets such as AFL.com.au, club websites and the AFL Official LIVE App. The updated sponsorship also deepens Telstra’s connections to AFL Clubs and extends the agreement with the AFL Players Association that engages all listed players as ambassadors for use in social marketing campaigns and other initiatives.

McLachlan said the extension was a good outcome for football and also for football supporters – particularly fans attending Marvel Stadium which would hit new heights for a digital sporting experience attending AFL and AFLW games. Fans of all sports and entertainment events at the stadium would benefit.

How 2020 AFL audiences increased

McLachlan thanked Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany and Telstra CEO Andy Penn for their ongoing support of the game and also thanked AFL supporters who had stayed with the game during 2020, with gross TV audiences of 77 million watching the 2020 home and away season – a 15 per cent increase on 2019 but it included a staggering 32 per cent increase in Brisbane audience and 20 per cent across Queensland.

Extended AFL TV deal: Foxtel Group CEO Patrick Delany

“This extension to our long-term relationship with the AFL confirms the Foxtel Group as the go-to destination for footy fans with every game of every round live and ad-free during play,” said Delany.

“After a roller-coaster ride through 2020, this is a great end to the year. More fans watched footy on Foxtel and Kayo in 2020 than ever before, and the depth and breadth of our sports offering saw us grow to have more sports subscribers than at any time in our 25-year history. We are already planning an exciting start to the 2021 footy season, which is less than three months away.

“On behalf of the Foxtel Group, I want to acknowledge Gillon McLachlan and the AFL team for the goodwill that’s been a hallmark of our relationship. We are incredibly pleased by the continued commitment to footy by our long-term strategic partner Telstra, under the leadership of Andy Penn. It’s also exciting to hear about the innovation that Telstra and the AFL will bring to the game and fans as part of today’s announcement.”

Extended AFL TV deal: Telstra CEO Andy Penn

“Since 2002, we have been proud of our partnership with the AFL which has always been about using technology to help Aussies watch and enjoy the game at home or on the go,” said Penn.

“We have been deeply committed to keeping up our support for the AFL and it’s pleasing to see Foxtel, our long-standing strategic partner, support the AFL and extend their rights deal for another two years. We will continue to work with the AFL, Foxtel and our other partners on how we continue to bring exclusive streaming rights and experiences to Telstra customers, and we have some exciting plans in this regard that we will announce in the new year.

“Telstra is delighted to be able to deepen our support of the AFL through extending our sponsorships, leveraging our industry leadership in 5G and other exciting technologies such as mixed reality, as well as becoming Marvel Stadium’s official technology and innovation partner to enhance the experience for fans. We’re really excited about the potential future stadium experiences that can be delivered for fans through Telstra 5G and other technologies.”

Extended AFL TV deal: What 2021 fixture means for TV coverage

The AFL released the first six weeks of the 2021 schedule just days before Christmas. It was good news for fans who like Thursday night football with a Thursday blockbuster scheduled every week.

Thursday night football every week poses a dilemma for Seven as it is unable to broadcast four games a week under its AFL deal. Taking a Thursday night game every week of the football year would mean it would have to drop some of its Saturday night or Sunday afternoon matches.

However, the AFL is helping out Seven by only planning another four or five Thursday night matches, held primarily around the mid-season bye period.

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