The AFL has signed a huge broadcasting rights deal with Channel Seven, Foxtel and Telstra, worth a record $2.508 billion. The deal lasts six years, beginning in 2017 until 2022.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan announced the deal late yesterday with News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch, representing Pay TV subsidiary Foxtel, Telstra CEO Andy Penn and Seven chairman Kerry Stokes also in attendance. The new deal doubles the value of the existing five-year arrangement, struck just four years ago, and worth $1.25 billion.
“It’s a great day for our game,” McLachlan said. “It gives our game the chance to invest in the future.”
The AFL retains full control of the production of the fixture, including the scheduling of the grand final.
It remains a 22-round season with nine games per round and no changes to the scheduling. Aside from Thursday night matches, public holidays and split rounds, there is a Friday night match, two on Saturday afternoon games, a Saturday twilight game and two in the evening, two Sunday afternoon games and one Sunday twilight fixture.
There are no planned changes to the AFL’s Saturday afternoon grand final, although McLachlan said the organisation had made no decision switching to a twilight or evening grand final, but in a separate announcement, the Victorian government said it would make grand final eve, the Friday, a public holiday.
Both Stokes and News Corp CEO Robert Thomson endorsed the idea of a twilight final. Seven has exclusive rights to the grand final.
The agreement dwarfs Channel Nine’s $925 million four-year deal with the NRL to broadcast four free-to-air games a week from 2018, although the NRL is hoping to add an extra $700 million to the bottom line with a Pay TV deal to come.
In what could easily be interpreted as a dig at the NRL for its deal with Nine, Rupert Murdoch said “We always believed this was the premium code in Australia”.
“I’m very happy to be doing this,” he said.
“We’ve always preferred Aussie Rules. But, I guess, we will engage with the NRL in time.”
Foxtel has the ability to onsell a Saturday afternoon game to another free-to-air TV station and will broadcast every game, including the final series (excluding the Grand Final), live via cable, satellite, IPTV, tablets and smart phones.
Seven will broadcast three games live weekly, with Foxtel able to onsell a game.
“Aussie Rules continues to be a centrepiece in all our newspapers, Fox Footy, Fox Sport Australia and Foxtel,” Murdoch said.
Thomson said there will be a focus on growing the code in Queensland and New South Wales.
Telstra’s Andy Penn called it a “milestone agreement and a milestone event”. The telco has the digital rights.
Kerry Stokes said the 2017 season would be broadcast in high definition on Seven and he’s looking to overcome the technological hurdles to introduce it in the 2016 season.