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ESPN seals new NFL rights deal in Australia, New Zealand

Sports broadcaster ESPN has struck an expanded rights agreement in Australia and New Zealand for the NFL American football league.

Under the agreement, ESPN will air 110 live games during the 2019 NFL season, including 90 regular-season fixtures, all post-season games, the Pro Bowl and the season-ending Super Bowl.

ESPN will show 36 more live games than last season. Five games will air each week during the regular season, including two games on Sunday afternoon, Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football, as well as all Thanksgiving Day games.

In a brief statement posted on its Twitter account, ESPN Australia & New Zealand said that it will not be providing coverage of the NFL RedZone service, which provides league-wide coverage on Sunday afternoons, during the upcoming season.

ESPN said that the NFL has chosen not to license the service for broadcast. Instead, ESPN said it would be launching an NFL edition of its SportsCenter show to recap Sunday-afternoon games.

In previous seasons there has been NFL coverage in Australia on both ESPN and free-to-air commercial broadcaster Seven.

However, Seven has been cutting back on some of its sports coverage since agreeing to pay A$75m (€45.3m/$50.3m) per year as part of Cricket Australia’s new six-year broadcast deals. Seven opted against acquiring rights to this year’s Fina World Championships, despite having aired previous editions.

Seven’s NFL contract ran from 2014-15 to 2018-19 and allowed the broadcaster to show three back-to-back Sunday games per week on its 7Mate channel.

The commercial broadcaster also held rights to the Superbowl and attracted a Monday-afternoon metropolitan audience of 234,000 viewers for this year’s showpiece. The 2019 figure represented a drop on previous years due to simultaneous test cricket coverage being aired on the main Seven channel.

ESPN will once again produce a live broadcast of the Super Bowl specifically for viewers in Australia and New Zealand.

The 2019 NFL season gets underway on September 5 when the Green Bay Packers take on the Chicago Bears.