I’m still hopeful Channel 10/Paramount will come in with a late big bid.
AFL TV rights: Monster shake-up in broadcasting rights bidding war
The AFL will sign the richest broadcasting deal in Australian sports history after Nine came in with a late $500 million a year offer.
A $2.5 billion deal, to run from 2025-29, could be finalised as soon as tonight as each bidder — including incumbent holders Seven and Fox Sports — puts forward offers in a silent auction.
However, an announcement is more likely to be made later this week.
Nine and its streaming service Stan have bid for the AFL after missing out on the 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 prop up its streaming service Stan, which obtained rugby union rights in 2020 and has tennis, but cannot compete with Fox Sports without one of the two major codes.
Nine and its streaming service Stan have bid for the AFL after missing out on the NRL streaming rights last year.
Over the weekend, it was tipped Seven West Media and Foxtel would retain the rights. But a source close to the negotiations, speaking on the 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 need to lift their offer to $200 million a year, which has not been confirmed yet.
The AFL had asked Network Ten and their streaming platform Paramount for $600 million. They initially came back with a figure well short of the demand, and are repositioning their final offer.
Seven and Fox Sports have a renewed set of rights from 2022-24 that yields a total $946 million for the AFL in cash and advertising, but that will be dwarfed by the new deal, the last to be negotiated by outgoing AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan.
Sporting broadcast rights have become critical to the television and streaming business models given the consistently high viewership.
An industry insider said that the Nine offer was a ploy to put pressure on Seven. “It’s not just the AFL that wants Seven to pay more, it’s also Nine.”
Seven and Fox Sports are working in partnership to retain the AFL rights, but it’s understood Seven would need to lift their offer.
The risk to the AFL was Nine’s capability to deliver on all their requirements, not just the financials, the insider said. Nine’s questionable performance in managing its two rugby codes would be a concern to the AFL.
Another insider said a broadcaster could confidently forecast ratings for major sports a year in advance and be close to the 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 sport is the glue most networks will use to sell their other programs.
Seven and Fox Sports recently came to an agreement over the streaming portion of their joint bid, which will allow Seven to stream some games on its 7 Plus service, while Fox would retain exclusivity over Saturday matches.
A major strength of the joint Seven and Fox bid is that Foxtel operates a cable and satellite service, which has more reliable reach in regional areas where internet services are not as competent as in the metropolitan cities.
Nine, Seven and Fox Sports did not wish to comment.