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THERE will almost certainly be 11 fewer games broadcast on free-to-air television in 2017.

On Thursday, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan conceded Channel 10 appears unlikely to take up an option to return to the sport it broadcast for 10 years between 2002 and 2011.

As part of the $2.5 billion, six-year television broadcast deal the AFL agreed with Channel Seven and Foxtel last year, the pay-TV provider was given the option to onsell an 11-game package – with those matches in the late Saturday afternoon time slot – to a free-to-air network.

That network was thought to be Channel 10, but McLachlan told reporters that now appears unlikely.

"That's my understanding. I don't have a documented basis for saying it but it looks like Channel 10 won't be taking up that option next year," McLachlan said.

"So that would be 11 games less on free-to-air than 2016.

"There was an option there for a free-to-air broadcaster and we thought it was more likely than not (to happen) – it hasn't turned out to be (the case)."

Channel 10 recently posted a $156.8 million annual loss, but will have the same 11-game option available in 2018.

McLachlan denied free-to-air viewers were slowly being denied access to more games with the signing of each new broadcast deal.

"In 2018 we might have 11 (free-to-air) games more than in 2016," he said.

"This is a one-year arrangement, I'm not guaranteeing it, but the provision is in place.

"The broadcasting landscape, I think everyone understands, is moving very quickly ... I don't think you should take a lead for 2018 from what's happening in 2017."