‘You grow sport by making it more accessible’: Seven doubles down on anti-siphoning lobbying ahead of 2024 AFL season

Seven - AFL

Seven’s renewed AFL broadcast rights kick in next year.

Ahead of this weekend’s kick-off to the 2024 AFL season, Seven has doubled down on its lobbying for changes to proposed sports anti-siphoning laws.

Seven’s national sport sales director, Rob Maclean, told Mediaweek that with more media players – such as Stan, Kayo and Optus – all vying for rights to various sports, it’s important that anti-siphoning protections apply, however people watch sport.

“It’s challenging, particularly when there’s broadcast deals with multiple players in the mix. AFL and cricket are both three-way arrangements, Fox, Seven and the sports governing body itself, so it’s not straightforward.

“Then, there’s the additional layer of consideration which is the anti-siphoning laws.

“Accessibility is such a key component when it comes to the growth of sports into the future. How do you grow sport? You grow sport by making it more accessible to more people. That’s why live and free is such a key component, irrespective of how people are watching whether that’s on linear or 7plus.”

Recently, TV bosses, including Seven’s James Warburton, appeared before a Senate committee to discuss proposed prominence and anti-siphoning laws. Currently, the bill protects free sport watched on broadcast TV – TV with an aerial – but not via BVOD services such a 7Plus. Seven wants to change that.

Launching a campaign starring Seven talent to push that message this week, Warburton said: “As the Bill is drafted now, there is nothing stopping Amazon, Kayo, Prime and Netflix from buying all the digital rights to Australians’ favourite sports and making them pay if they want to stream sport over the internet.”

Maclean said that the plan for this year’s AFL schedule is to maximise audience and fan engagement to deliver the best possible platform for brands – all while ensuring consumption of sport remains free for everyone.

“We are a broadcaster and we lean into our storytelling role, we need to be everything to everyone because that appeals to a mass audience,” Maclean said. 

“As it relates to this year, our focus is on creating more touch points for footy fans and producing engaging content across both 7plus and 7NEWS.com.au.

“This content includes an expanded AFL Match Centre at 7NEWS.com.au and a slew of new content hitting 7plus such as a 7AFL Fast Channel, AFL Armchair Experts, Talking Footy and Roaming Brian.”

Touted as ‘the biggest sports broadcast rights deal in Australian history’, Seven’s renewed AFL broadcast rights kick in next year. And from this year’s Brownlow Medal Awards and Grand Final, Australians will have live and free digital access to the AFL for the first time.

Maclean says Seven’s new digital AFL rights will be a game changer. 

“From a brand point of view, it’s going to create more ways for them to connect with different fan types, optimise reached outcomes and crucially enhance effectiveness with the insights that digital will bring.”

This year Seven is welcoming Toyota, Maccas, AAMI, Harvey Norman and Bunnings as broadcast partners. 

In September 2023, the AFL and Toyota Australia renewed their partnership for another four years, taking the length of the partnership to 24 years. Part of the partnership is Toyota’s focus on community clubs through its Toyota Good for Footy program, which encompasses initiatives such as the Good for Footy Raffle. 

Telstra, Coles, Sportsbet, Industry Super Funds, Hostplus, CBUS, Chemist Warehouse, NAB, Asahi Beverages, Uber, OMO Ultimate, Cash Converters, Bundaberg Brewed Drinks, Colgate-Palmolive and Virgin Australia will also join Seven as broadcast sponsors. 

See also: Kayo’s Cate Hefele on the streamers’ strategy to retain sports subscribers

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