New broadcast platform for AFL rebuild

Shayne Hope
·3-min read

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan says the competition can rebuild its coronavirus-hit balance sheet within four years after completing a bumper extension to its broadcast rights agreement.

On Wednesday, the league confirmed two-year extensions to its deals with pay TV provider Foxtel and telecommunications giant Telstra, covering the 2023-24 seasons.

The length of the deals match that signed by free-to-air broadcaster Seven West Media in June.

The extensions will earn the league a total windfall of $946 million, which comes on the back of a year of financial turmoil and league-wide cost-cutting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AFL initially feared it would lose up to $1 billion this year, and a number of clubs have reported losses, but McLachlan has confirmed the hit to the industry in 2020 would be "under $100 million".

McLachlan conceded financial uncertainty would continue into 2021, but said locking in free-to-air, digital and pay-TV broadcast deals for the next four years would help the AFL and clubs recover.

It will also enable the AFL to review its funding models, collective bargaining agreements with players and football department spending caps.

"The uncertainty around COVID we believe will be around next year and this deal is a show of faith from our broadcast partners and a show of strength for our product," McLachlan said.

"What it will enable us to do is to work with our clubs - those in trouble and the stronger ones - with a four-year funding envelope.

"I feel very, very confident that we will rebuild the balance sheet of all our clubs and of the industry by the end of this agreement by working hand-in-glove with the clubs.

"Even if next year continues to be uncertain, we'll make sure we make the prudent decisions for the long-term strength of clubs and the game."

The AFL signed a seven-year, $2.5 billion broadcast deal with Seven West Media, Foxtel and Telstra in 2015.

The deal was revised in June, with a reduction on the 2020 payments based on a shortened 153-game home-and-away season plus finals.

At that time, Seven West Media signed a two-year extension to the end of 2024.

The parties declined to confirm the breakdown of payments in the $946 million extension.

"After a challenging and at times uncertain 2020, this is a massive vote of confidence in our game at all levels," McLachlan said.

"It provides greater financial certainty in the years ahead, and ensures our fans continue to have the ability to watch men's and women's footy wherever they are.

"The extended partnerships ensure that we're not only able to rebuild our game, but take it to more and more people."

As part of the new deal, all AFL and AFLW matches will be broadcast live on various platforms.

Telstra will partner with the AFL to upgrade technology at Marvel Stadium and enhance the fan experience at the league-owned venue.