Fox Footy: AFL’s Gillon McLachlan and Foxtel’s Patrick Delany on sports rights

Fox Footy

The chief executives note the arrival of Kayo has been good for both businesses

Autumn means things get serious for Foxtel subscribers to Fox Sports’ Fox League and Fox Footy channels. Last week Mediaweek noted the launch of a new season launching on Fox League in interviews with Steve Crawley and Matty Johns.

Starting today Mediaweek notes the arrival of a new season on Fox Footy with a series of interviews.

Launching the week are the chief executive officers of the AFL, Gillon McLachlan, and the Foxtel Group, Patrick Delany.

Fox Footy

Gillon McLachlan at the Fox Footy 2022 launch

McLachlan started telling Mediaweek: “The relationship with Foxtel certainly works for us and the partnerships we have with Seven and Foxtel/Kayo mean we couldn’t be happier. We have all games live with Foxtel and we have a great distribution deal with Seven. They are both long-term committed partners.

“That means they both care about our sport, probably not as much as I do, but they care about the sport beyond the deals. Given the enduring nature of the partnerships, we can deal with stuff that is outside the contracts.”

Mediaweek asked McLachlan about the possibility of splitting the rights in future between more media partners to maximise revenue. He indicated he couldn’t see a reason the current arrangement would not continue to see Foxtel and Seven as AFL partners. “I am optimistic they can. I won’t speak for our partners. But from our perspective, the arrangement works really well. We have our own commercial imperatives in these agreements and we invest in grassroots football and everywhere else.

Fox Footy

Nick Riewoldt with Gillon McLachlan at the Fox Footy 2022 launch (Photos by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

We care deeply about the coverage and the distribution and it’s a proposition our supporters and fans understand. We don’t have a huge appetite to change it, but we are only one voice in that.”

Patrick Delany added about the Fox Footy coverage in 2022: “We try to refresh everything, if not on an annual cycle, at least every two years. This year you will get to see a completely new graphics package and we have completely refreshed our hosting and commentary team. The team is continually pushed by me to see what ground they can make in terms of being clever and funny.

With the addition of people like Nathan Buckley you get the essence of what Fox Sports and Fox Footy is – taking fans closer to the game.

“The Fox Footy team do it in a way that if you were a casual follower of the AFL we explain it well. If you were a fan that might watch a game a week you can go to another level. If you were a fanatic, then we can really pull it apart.

Fox Footy

Fox Footy talent help launch the new season

“In terms of the mix between Seven and ourselves and the depth of coverage, broadcast TV works very much on fans and followers. We work for the fanatics and fans. The two broadcasts in many ways complement each other and the AFL gets very good coverage.

“The subscription side is now really starting to surge since the introduction of Kayo which has been good for the game.”

McLachlan and his team said they endeavour to keep an eye on international sports broadcast deals. “We do, but it has been a bit more difficult in the last couple of years,” he admitted. “We look at the Premier League which has been very successful in the way they have gone to market. The processes they use are different to what we do and we observe that. The American sports are very progressive. The way we approach [rights deal] is more American than English. Like us, they have long term partners.

“We look and we try and learn, but in the end we are our own market with a unique set of arrangements in terms of a way our supporters want the game presented and the way our broadcast operations work. Maybe it is getting more global with streaming companies, but the partnerships we have at the moment service the league, our clubs and the supporters incredibly well.”

Direct to fans

The AFL is not about to bypass the broadcasters and stream direct to fans, said McLachlan.

Everyone thought that is what might happen with streaming, but it’s a credit to both our partners and their ability to pivot. For Patrick to embrace streaming and what they done with Kayo. The risks they took, the investment and the quality of their execution have frankly made that [possibility] a bit irrelevant. They are now talking to sports fans and AFL fans in a way we are incredibly comfortable with as they have broader distribution and a broader ability to monetise it.

“[Direct to fans] was the theory for a while and I think Kayo has done a good job of keeping that in the theory basket.”

Fox Footy

Patrick Delany with Fox Footy’s Kath Loughnan and Garry Lyon

Fox Footy: Always negotiating

Delany told Mediaweek the broadcaster and the AFL are always talking. “There is a very close dialogue every week. One of the first deals I ever did when they put me in to run Fox Sports was the soccer deal with Frank Lowy. I went to sign the deal which had been a very hard negotiation, back when soccer was big in this country, many years ago.

“As we signed the deal, Frank said, ‘Now we re-negotiate.’

If you don’t understand you are really always negotiating for the next deal then you are perhaps a little naive.

“One of the great things about sports is dealing with things that people really enjoy. That makes the relationship more fun and easier between a sport and the broadcaster. It’s about spreading the love, and making money out of it and that means you need a constant dialogue.”

Tomorrow in Mediaweek’s Fox Footy week: Jonathan Brown

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