AFL-TV Rights: Monster shake-up in broadcast rights bidding war

The richest broadcast deal in Australian sports history is on the brink after a broadcaster threw in a massive $500 million-a-year bid to shake up the television rights landscape.

The AFL will sign the richest broadcasting deal in Australian sporting history after Nine made a late $500m-a-year bid.

A $2.5 billion deal, ending in 2025-29, could close as early as tonight if every bidder — including incumbent holders Seven and Fox Sports — submit bids in a silent auction.

However, an announcement is more likely to be made later this week.

Nine and his streaming service Stan have bid for the AFL after missing out on NRL streaming rights last year when Fox Sports extended its partnership with Rugby League until the end of 2027.

Nine has the free-to-air NRL rights until 2027 but aims to shore up its streaming service Stan, which received rugby union rights in 2020 and has tennis but cannot compete with Fox Sports without one of the two main codes.

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Over the weekend, Seven West Media and Foxtel were advised to keep the rights. But a source close to the negotiations, who spoke on condition of anonymity, suggested it was a “50-50” situation.

Seven and Fox Sports are working in partnership to retain the AFL rights, but it’s understood Seven would have to up their bid to $200 million a year, which hasn’t been confirmed yet.

The AFL had asked Network Ten and its streaming platform Paramount for $600 million. They initially came back with a number well below demand and are repositioning their final offering.

Seven and Fox Sports have a renewed set of rights from 2022 to 2024 that will bring the AFL a total of $946 million in cash and advertising, but that will be negotiated through the new deal, the last to be negotiated by outgoing AFL boss Gillon McLachlan is, dwarfed .

Sports broadcasting rights have become crucial to the TV and streaming business models given the consistently high viewership figures.

An industry insider said Nine’s offer was a ploy to put pressure on Seven. “Not only does the AFL want Seven to pay more, but so does Nine.”

The risk for the AFL was Nine’s ability to meet all of their needs, not just the finances, the insider said. Nine’s questionable performance in managing his two rugby codes would cause concern for the AFL.

Another insider said a broadcaster can confidently predict ratings for major sports a year in advance and be close to mark, unlike major drama and reality shows, which tend to be less predictable.

With the proliferation of streaming services, the competition for eyeballs is greater than ever, and sports is the glue most networks will use to sell their other programming.

Seven and Fox Sports recently reached an agreement on the streaming portion of their joint offering, allowing Seven to stream some games on its 7 Plus service while Fox retains exclusivity over Saturday games.

A major strength of Seven and Fox’s combined offering is that Foxtel operates a cable and satellite service that has more reliable coverage in regional areas where Internet services aren’t as proficient as in metropolitan areas.

Foxtel is 65 percent owned by News Corp Australia, the publisher of this website.

Nine, Seven and Fox Sports declined to comment.

Originally published as AFL TV Rights: Monster Shake in Broadcast Rights Bidding War AFL-TV Rights: Monster shake-up in broadcast rights bidding war

Nate Jones

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