AFL agrees amended Seven, Foxtel rights deals as season resumes

Australian rules football league the AFL has marked its return to action today (Thursday) by revising and extending its rights contract with commercial broadcaster Seven, and is said to have amended its deal with pay-television operator Foxtel.

The deal with Seven was announced ahead of the Collingwood v Richmond clash, 81 days after the 2020 Premiership season was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Seven has agreed a deal which revises the current contract for the remainder of the 2020 season, and the 2021 and 2022 campaigns, as well as adding a two-year extension taking in 2023 and 2024.

In August 2015, the AFL awarded its next cycle of domestic rights to Seven, Foxtel and telecommunications company Telstra. The rights covered six seasons, from 2017 to 2022, and were worth a total of A$2.51bn (€1.53bn/$1.73bn), or A$418m per year. That represented a 67-per-cent increase on the previous five-year cycle, from 2012 to 2016, which was worth A$250m per year.

An agreement has now been driven over the line, with Seven set to receive a 19-per-cent saving and a net benefit of A$87m over the remainder of the current deal through to the end of 2022, before the extended contract commences.

Seven’s reduction, excluding production costs, amounts to around A$70m over three years, or just over A$23m per season, according to The Age newspaper.

This means the AFL will now receive a total of A$730m from Seven spread across the next five years. Seven was expected to pay around A$150m this year, with production costs of approximately A$20m.

Foxtel will save almost A$30m per year under the amended existing deal (from 2020 to 2022), according to Australian reports, but has not extended its contract. It is expected that Telstra, the mobile rights-holder, will continue to pay A$50m per year.

Commenting on today’s agreement, Seven West Media managing director and chief executive James Warburton said: “The AFL and Seven are a core part of each other’s DNA, and we are delighted to have not only reached a revised agreement for the current contract term, but to have extended our relationship for a further two seasons taking the agreement through until the end of 2024.”

The AFL’s deals come after the National Rugby League (NRL) last month marked the resumption of its 2020 season by agreeing fresh rights deals with Foxtel and commercial free-to-air broadcaster Nine.

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC), Foxtel and Nine agreed to deals that recommit both broadcasters to the current rights period until the end of 2022, but Foxtel also extended its contract for a further five years until the end of the 2027 campaign.

Earlier this week, Rugby Australia reached an agreement with Foxtel on a modified broadcast arrangement for 2020, which has given the go-ahead for the proposed Super Rugby AU tournament.