‘They are absolutely priority markets, there’s no doubt about it’: Seven’s plan for AFL to dominate NSW and QLD in 2024

The AFL starts back again tonight, with the season opening kicking off in Sydney when the Swans take on Melbourne. It’s the start of a huge season for the AFL, and for broadcaster Seven, which is promising more games in prime time, more Thursday, Friday and Saturday night games.

Ahead of taking the full digital rights to the sport next year — a deal that kicks off with this year’s grand final and continues through to 2031 — Seven has expanded its digital coverage, with AFL Match Centre at 7NEWS.com.au, a 7AFL Fast Channel, AFL Armchair Experts, Talking Footy, Roaming Brian and more.

As the sport continues making inroads in NWS and QLD, Seven’s national sport sales director, Rob Maclean, is excited by the possibilities.

“I can tell you that nearly every partner or sponsor from 2023 has renewed again for this season,” Maclean tells Mumbrella. “And we’ve been able to add some new brands into the mix as well, who will be able to show up in different ways.”

Toyota, Macca’s, AAMI, Harvey Norman and Bunnings have signed one as broadcast partners, while 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 are broadcast sponsors.

It’s a veritable who’s who of the corporate world. According to Maclean, such a strong showing is a reflection of a few different things.

“One, it’s a good proof point of some of the success that we’ve had working with these major brands on these big, big partnerships that have really provided a platform for them to continue to grow their brands,” he said. “We’ve delivered great solutions and collaborated really well to deliver these market-leading sponsorships.

“And then on the other side of it, it’s just a good sign of the way we continue to learn from new data and insights, year after year, and evolve the way that we enable these brands to really show up inside our AFL broadcast in a relevant way.

“And there’s lots of exciting stuff that should set us up well for growth in 2024, which we can touch on, from fixtures through to what we’re doing from a content perspective to engage footy fans from start through to finish.”

Seven is expanding its AFL coverage this year, with more prime time games than ever before, more digital content, and more coverage in the NSW and Queensland market.


“They are absolutely priority markets, there’s no doubt about it,” Maclean says of New South Wales and Queensland.

“You take a market like Queensland, the AFL on Seven last year in the Brisbane metro market grew by about 20% on the year prior. Regional Queensland grew 10%. You’ve obviously had the Lions make the grand final, and set up for success over the next few years, you’ve got the Suns with a new coach on board looking to make a final. So it absolutely is a growth market.

“We recognise that, the AFL does, and that’s why we’re leaning in really hard into our strategy, as it relates to that. Obviously this new iconic round, with opening round matches exclusively in New South Wales and Queensland, is a big part of that. And also what Seven’s doing is really looking to maximise our ratings, via our prime time and main channel exposure.”

This means more fixtures on Seven in those markets, particularly for the Thursday night prime-time games.

“This will be the first time ever that we’re committing to putting all eight finals on Seven, nationally,” Maclean reveals.

“Typically we’d wait ’til the end of the year to see is there are New South Wales and Queensland sides in those finals before we do that. So we’re really committing to growth in those markets – because they have massive potential.”

Tonight’s season opening at the SCG, with Sydney Swans taking on Melbourne, will be a good bellwether.

“AFL is a national game,” Maclean says.

“It’s the number one code in Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth, but absolutely making inroads into Queensland and New South Wales. And that’s a key part of the attractiveness of Seven’s AFL proposition to advertisers, and a key part of why we’ve committed to the sport all the way out to 2031.”

One lucky bounce that Seven couldn’t plan for is the even spread of competitive teams this year, with each state offering up at least one contender.

“I think the exciting thing for us is that the season is shaping up really well,” Maclean agrees. “You’re probably gonna see really even, competitive football. It’s great in terms of viewing figures, and Seven’s [weekly] matches really skew to, you know, the big Victorian and powerhouse interstate clubs. So big ratings drivers with huge supporter bases and competitive teams.”

With more games in prime time, and more Thursday, Friday and Saturday night games, Maclean expects to hit around 4 million viewers from week and week.

“Brands really recognise it as a significant platform, that’s a core part of their marketing over six to seven months.

“It is a brand builder and, more and more, they’re looking for those real mass, culturally relevant opportunities to show up.

“And things like the Gather Round, which was launched last year [where every game in a single round is played in Adelaide] and which will go from strength to strength, and grow this year, right through to the AFL Grand Final, which is very much our Super Bowl moment.

“These are big moments in time in this market that will enable these major brands to really make an impact.”


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