THE AFL has landed the biggest sports broadcast rights deal in Australian history after extending its partnership with the Seven Network, Foxtel and Telstra for another seven seasons.
The League's current broadcast rights deal goes for another two years, through to the end of 2024, but on Tuesday the AFL secured the television rights through to the end of 2031.
In one of Gillon McLachlan's final major moves as chief executive of the AFL, the League has bolstered its future with a $4.5 billion deal across the Seven, Foxtel and Telstra agreement after meeting with key bidders on Monday to hear final pitches.
It came after Channel Nine and streaming service Stan also made significant plays for the rights, as did Paramount, the owner of Network Ten.
FULL STATEMENT AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan on the new broadcast deal
The AFL's new deal is worth $643 million a season - an upgrade on the $473 million per season under the terms of the current two-year deal that ends after the 2024 season.
McLachlan and AFL chairman Richard Goyder fronted a media conference on Tuesday confirming the deal and that Seven and Fox Sports would continue to jointly broadcast games, a partnership they have held since 2011.
The last major broadcast deal - covering free-to-air and subscription television, and online streaming - was signed in August 2015 and was worth $2.5 billion over six years from 2017-22.
In 2020, the existing deals with broadcast partners Seven, Foxtel and Telstra were revised and extended until the end of 2024 for a total of $946 million to provide certainty as the League rebuilt its finances after the initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The three-month negotiation process for the new 2025-31 deal concluded in the early hours of Tuesday morning before the announcement, with McLachlan saying the result was a huge win for the game at all levels.
"We want to be the game for everyone. And this partnership will help us to do more to engage with all communities, in all states and territories and across Indigenous and culturally diverse communities," McLachlan said.
"This partnership will provide unprecedented levels of financial support to invest more in ensuring every person who wants to play footy will be able to play footy.
"It will allow us to invest heavily in expanding our reach into the local community and also to invest in the next generation through more digital products that are targeted at attracting kids and providing a pathway to engaging physically with our game."
The AFL will still have control of the Grand Final starting time, which it says will be an annual decision, but has made changes to its broadcast structure, with there to be Thursday night games in the first 15 rounds of the season from 2025 onwards. The same amount of games will be broadcast on free-to-air TV each season as is currently, but Fox Footy has won rights to have their own commentary teams for each game.
The League is also in "active discussions" with its partners on bringing forward the start time of Friday night games in the next agreement.
McLachlan said the new broadcast arrangement, which will expire in nine years, "contemplates" a 19-team competition as the AFL gets closer to making a call on Tasmania's bid for a licence. The outgoing AFL boss said the broadcast deal didn't change the equation for Tasmania's hope of a standalone team.
"Tasmanians should have faith in their government that they're prosecuting their interests. I don't think today changes anything. The Commission's commitment to the 18 shareholders and clubs and others is that if it's the right deal for football, which includes all the Tasmanians but also everyone across the country, if it's the right deal we'll push ahead but also if it's not then it won't go ahead," he said.
The AFL Players' Association had wanted to wait until after the AFL had completed its new broadcast deal before entering talks on the next Collective Bargaining Agreement for players, which is soon to expire this year.
McLachlan said he had spoken to AFLPA boss Paul Marsh on Tuesday and that it looked set to be the next big-ticket item on his checklist.
"I've already got a call from Paul Marsh, Paddy Dangerfield (AFLPA president) so I imagine I'll have to go and see the Players' Association," he said.
KEY POINTS OF THE AFL'S NEW DEAL
- The deal will run for seven years, from 2025 to 2031
- It is worth $4.5 billion - the biggest sports broadcast rights deal in Australian history
- The same number of games will be broadcast on free-to-air TV each season
- The AFL will retain control of the timing of the Grand Final
- Seven and 7+ Digital will broadcast Thursday night games in each of the first 15 rounds of the season
- All marquee matches will be live and free on Seven (Dreamtime, Anzac Day Eve, Anzac Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday and Queen's Birthday) plus at least three additional marquee matches - such as the season opener and Queen's Birthday Eve
- At least 30 NAB AFLW home and away games, AFLW finals and the AFLW Grand Final will be live and free on Seven and 7+ Digital
- All AFL and AFLW home and away games and finals (excluding the AFL Grand Final) will be broadcast on Foxtel and Kayo, with their own commentary teams
- Foxtel and Kayo will exclusively broadcast a 'Super Saturday' of games in each of the first eight rounds of the season (except Anzac Day Eve, Anzac Day and Dreamtime at the 'G if they fall on Saturday)