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FREE | Australia Market Report, 2020

In the latest interactive monthly data report, SportBusiness Media analyses the media-rights landscape in Australia.

Further detail on the deals covered in this interactive data report is available with our Rights Tracker tool – click here for more information.

Market value and players

SportBusiness Media estimates that in 2019 the Australian media-rights market was worth about $965m, accounting for almost two-per-cent of global media-rights values.

Pay-television broadcaster Foxtel dominates the market, despite recent struggles with declining subscriber numbers.  It owns rights to seven out of the top ten properties in the country.

There are three main commercial broadcasters – Nine Network, Network Ten, and Seven Network – in the free-to-air rights market in the country.

Telecommunications companies Telstra and Optus are also active in the market.

The recent Covid-19 pandemic has strongly impacted media rights in Australia, with many rights-holders having to renegotiate high-value domestic deals with broadcasters at a reduced rate.

Aussie Rules, Rugby League 

Aussie rules football and rugby league accounted for almost 54 per cent of the Australian media-rights market in 2019.

The postponement of the Australian Football League (AFL) and the suspension of the National Rugby League (NRL) following the Covid-19 pandemic, has led to tough negotiations between rights-holder and broadcaster over the last few months.

For the AFL, Foxtel negotiated a 14-per-cent reduction in its average annual rights fee for the 2020-22 cycle. The original six-year deal was from 2017 to 2022.

Foxtel also negotiated a 15-per-cent reduction in its average annual rights fee for NRL rights in the 2020-22 cycle. The pay-television broadcaster was also able to negotiate a 15-per-cent reduction on the sublicensing deal it had agreed with Nine. Both five-year deals started in 2018.

Both the AFL and NRL also renegotiated their free-to-air deals, with Seven and Nine, respectively. Seven negotiated a 19-per-cent reduction in its average annual rights fee for the 2020-22 cycle. Nine negotiated a 20-per-cent reduction in its average annual rights fee for the 2020-22 cycle. In the remaining two years of its deal, 2021 and 2022, Nine will pay about 26-per-cent more than 2020.

However, both leagues were able to secure long-term renewals in this time of uncertainty. AFL extended its contract for a further two years with Seven, covering 2023 and 2024, and NRL agreed to a five-year extension of its contract with Foxtel, from 2023 to 2028.

The AFL and NRL mobile rights partner, Telstra, decided to honour both its six-year contract with AFL from 2017 to 2022 and its five-year contract with NRL from 2018 to 2022.

Cricket

Cricket accounted for almost 15 per-cent of the total Australian sports-rights market value in 2019.

Cricket Australia, the country’s national cricket board, has two media deals for all its domestic rights (including the domestic Big Bash League) for six seasons, from 2018-19 to 2023-24.

Foxtel holds the majority of the boards’ rights. Seven has rights to simulcast with Foxtel some national-team Test matches and around 70-per-cent of the BBL matches per season.

The 8-per-cent of the total media value is paid in marketing and advertising, with Foxtel and Seven paying 3-per-cent and 5-per-cent, respectively.

The deal represents a 52-per-cent increase on Cricket Australia’s previous five-season deals with Nine and Ten, from 2013-14 to 2017-18.

Until now, neither broadcasters has renegotiated its deal with Cricket Australia in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, although the national federation expects tough conversations with the broadcasters over potential event postponements and cancellations.

Foxtel dominates the Australian cricket market, and as well as domestic cricket, it also holds rights to the Caribbean Premier League, Cricket South Africa’s events, Cricket New Zealand’s events, the Indian Premier League, and the ICC properties.

Soccer

As well as the key domestic sports rights, Foxtel also holds rights to the country’s domestic soccer leagues, the men’s A-League and Women’s W-League, as well as the national team friendly matches. Its deal with Football Federation Australia for these rights was originally for six years, from 2017-18 to 2022-23.

However, following the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2020 A-League season subsequent postponement, Foxtel terminated its rights contract with the FFA using a force majeure clause. It then agreed to a new deal that covers the remainder of the 2019-20 A-League season and the 2020-21 campaign.

The pay-television broadcaster sublicensed mobile rights for six years to Telstra and free-to-air rights to Network Ten, from 2017 to 2019. In 2019, the FFA sold these rights directly to public broadcaster SBS, in a two-year deal from 2019 to 2021.

Optus holds rights to several key international soccer leagues and competitions including the English Premier League, Uefa club and national team competitions, and the Japanese J.League.

Rugby Union

The value of rugby union’s media rights has been impacted by a substantial downturn in interest in recent years.

The 2019 Rugby World Cup’s Australian rights suffered a 42-per-cent decrease in value compared to the previous edition in 2015.  In addition, governing body Rugby Australia has struggled to sell its domestic rights for 2021 onward.

The national rugby federation is in the final year of its broadcast deal with Foxtel, which covered the five years from 2016 to 2020. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the deal with Rugby Australia covered all its domestic rights together with the Super Rugby and Rugby Championship tournaments. In May 2020, Foxtel negotiated a discount for this year of at least 30 per cent.

Foxtel sublicenses free-to-air rights to one match per match-week to Network Ten on a delayed basis.

Tennis

The value of tennis media rights in the country has been boosted by the start of a new deal in 2020 for the top domestic property: the Australian Open.

Nine Network secured rights for the Australian Open over five years, from 2020 to 2024. It represented a massive shock to the market since as well as being a 50-per-cent increase in value from the previous deal, Nine also outbid rival Seven, which had held rights for the last 46 years.

Pay-television broadcaster ESPN holds rights to the ATP World Tour and the US Open. Foxtel holds rights to the French Open and Wimbledon.

Motorsports

The domestic V8 Supercars motor-racing series has two six-year deals with Ten Network and Foxtel from 2015 to 2020.

Supercars held its first round of the 2020 season in February, before having to suspend the competition due to the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

The rights-holder, consequently, halted talks over a new broadcasting deal while Foxtel tried to sign a revised deal for the 2020 season, along with a reduced long-term agreement that could move the season to later in the year.

International motorsports properties are also important for local broadcasters. Foxtel holds rights to Formula One from 2018 to 2022. It sublicenses some free-to-air rights to Network Ten in a four-year deal. MotoGP rights are held by Ten and Foxtel in a three-year deal from 2019 to 2021.

Most recent

Tech giant Amazon’s acquisition of UK rights to the Autumn Nations Cup competition has triggered a debate over whether the company will now embark upon a concerted push into rugby.

The surprise emergence of free-to-air broadcaster KBS as a bidder for German Bundesliga rights in South Korea generated some competition during the 2020-22 sales process, but not enough to stave off a dip in value.

Chinese internet giant Tencent picked up the English Premier League rights for the 2020-21 season at a massive discount compared to the value of the terminated deal with previous rights-holder PPTV.

European Handball Federation club competition rights have decreased in value in several key markets, with incumbents dropping out to leave tough market conditions for seller Infront.