News Corp owned Fox Sports and Seven Network have tied up the rights for the AFL for six years for a record breaking $2.508bn, double the previous amount.
The agreement takes them from 2017 to the end of 2022 with Telstra to remain as the digital rights holders for the sport which is seen as crucial for networks to dominate in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.
It follows the NRL tying up a five-year $950m deal with the Nine Network last week. There is “around $200m of contra” included in the deal according to AFL CEO Gill McLachlan, who said “the AFL’s challenge is to stay Australia’s game”.
The rights should also see matches made available on Telstra’s new streaming service Telstra TV from 2018.
News Corp has bought the right to on-sell one match per round to a free-to-air network. When asked whether that would be given to Network Ten, which News is trying to take a stake in through a 15 per cent investment from Foxtel he said it would be going to the “highest bidder”.
That could leave the door open to Nine to acquire a live AFL match from News, which could be in a deal as part of an exchange for one of its NRL games.
The deal smashes all previous records for broadcast rights, but maintains the status quo in terms of where matches are broadcast, with Fox Footy to continue to show every match live, and Seven showing the equivalent of three and a half matches per week.
Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes said the channel would be working during this summer to work out a way to start broadcasting on AFL in high definition on Channel Seven from the start of the next rights cycle.
News Corp co-chairman Rupert Murdoch at today’s press conference
The AFL has insisted it will continue to control the schedule for the sport.
The deal was seen as essential for both Seven and Fox Sports following Nine’s deal with the NRL last week, with live sports rights for the free-to-air network important as a draw for large audiences, and to cross-promote other shows.
Fox Sports is still understood to be negotiating with the NRL for access to its rights from 2018, although Nine’s deal is understood to put some stringent conditions on any deal regarding carrying its advertising for simulcasted matches.
Telstra will continue to operate AFL.com.au for the code streaming matches on mobile devices, which Telstra CEO Andy Penn confirmed would also be made available on its Telstra TV service set to launch next month.
Statement from News Corp:
News Corp Australia, in conjunction with its subsidiary Fox Sports Australia, today announced that it has secured a six year deal with the Australian Football League for seasons 2017-2022, affirming Fox Footy’s position as Australia’s home of AFL.
The rights deal ensures that Fox Footy will continue to deliver every game of every round including the final series (excluding the Grand Final), live to Australian fans across all platforms including cable, satellite, IPTV, tablets and smart phones.
News Corp Australia is delighted to partner with the AFL, Seven West Media and Telstra on this groundbreaking deal.
News Corp executive chairman Rupert Murdoch commented: “Our company has a long and highly valued relationship with the AFL, and has followed and reported on the game since its inception in 1858. Aussie Rules continues to be a centrepiece in all our newspapers, Fox Footy, Fox Sport Australia and Foxtel. This deal secures and builds that relationship well into the future.”
Statement from Foxtel:
Foxtel CEO, Richard Freudenstein today welcomed the agreement between the AFL and News Corp Australia that will see Fox Footy remain the home of AFL until at least the end of 2022.
“This is great news for Foxtel subscribers,” he said. “AFL fans know that Fox Footy provides superlative coverage of their game, with both great match coverage and informative and entertaining magazine shows that cover every aspect of the competition.
“This deal builds on the strong set of rights Fox Footy has today and ensures that the channel will be the only place where you can see every game of every round, including the final series (excluding the Grand Final), live for many years to come.
“If you love AFL you need to be a Foxtel subscriber, and with our recently reduced pricing there’s really no reason not to sign up.
“Under this deal, for the first time, Fox Footy will be able to be broadcast on all devices, which means that if you subscribe to Foxtel Play or use Foxtel Go, you’ll now be able to watch all games on PCs and Macs as well as tablets, phones and games consoles.
“Foxtel is very proud of its association with the AFL and we look forward to providing an even better service to the League and its millions of fans.”
Statement from Seven West Media:
The Seven Network, Australia’s most-watched broadcast television platform and a key business of Seven West Media, one of Australia’s leading integrated media and content creation companies, today confirmed the signing of an historic, long-term agreement for an all-encompassing coverage of the Australian Football League for seasons 2017-2022.
The new agreement builds on Seven’s current agreement with the AFL for the 2012-2016 football seasons.
Kerry Stokes, Chairman of Seven West Media, said: “Seven and the Australian Football League have a long-standing and deep connection. We are delighted to confirm our partnership with the AFL and look forward to working closely with them as we expand our coverage over the coming decade.
“The signing of this agreement forms a key part of our company’s plans for development and underlines our commitment to the future of broadcast television as we build our media presence over the coming decade.”
Seven’s agreement with the Australian Football League delivers free broadcast television for Thursday Night Football, Friday Night Football, Saturday Night Football and Sunday Afternoon Football. Seven has also secured the Australian Football League Finals Series and Grand Final along with the Brownlow Medal.
Tim Worner, CEO of Seven West Media, added: “We are delighted to extend our partnership with the Australian Football League. The AFL is the biggest football code.
“The new agreement for the 2017-2022 seasons make strong business and financial sense for us. It forms a key part of our plans for the future and will be a significant platform for Seven as we build on our leadership in broadcast television and the delivery of audiences, and build new businesses which will drive our future as Australia’s leading integrated media and communications business. The media landscape is changing. Our agreement with the AFL is a cornerstone of our plans to lead that change in Australia.”