What does the AFL’s new broadcast deal mean for its stakeholders?

7 September 2022

Written by: Lincoln Allan

The AFL has extended its partnership with Channel 7, Foxtel and Telstra until 2031.

The AFL has secured the biggest sports broadcast deal in Australian history, after the league’s partnership with Channel 7, Foxtel and Telstra was extended for another seven seasons.

The AFL announced on Tuesday that its current partnership will be maintained until 2031, after its initial expiration date was 2024.

The deal, reportedly worth $4.5 billion is one of Gillon McLachlan’s final acts as AFL CEO before he steps down at the end of 2022.

“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,” McLachlan said.

So why does this new deal matter? Let’s break it down.

The viewers

For the largest demographic of the AFL community, there will be little change for the next two seasons until the 2024 deal expires.

It won’t be until the 2025 season where we will see significant change occurring, most evidently in the broadcast structure.

As of the 2025 season, changes to the broadcast structure will include:

  • Thursday night matches for the first 15 rounds of the season.
  • Fox Footy to have their own commentary team for every game, meaning for free-to-air games, viewers can pick and choose what broadcast to listen to.
  • Foxtel and Kayo will exclusively broadcast a ‘Super Saturday’ of games in each of the first eight rounds of the season (excluding marquee matches, which will be live and free on Seven).

The reality for AFL fans is that if you are wanting to get full access to AFL content, you will still need to fork out money for pay TV or subscription services.

The players

If there was a winner out of this, then it’s definitely the players.

The AFL players association had previously said they wanted to hold out discussions on the next Collective Bargaining Agreement for players, which is soon to expire this year.

Given the rights deal is the most significant in Australian sporting history, it’s highly likely that the next generation of AFL players will be the most financially looked after.

Outgoing CEO McLachlan said that these discussions were his next priority.

“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.

The game

The AFL’s new deal is worth $643 million per season, which is a significant increase from the previous $473 million, with McLachlan saying the additional funds would be used to grow the next generation of players.

“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,” he said.

These extra funds mean that the AFL can continue to fund expansion clubs in Greater Western Sydney and Gold Coast, as well as keeping smaller Victorian clubs competitive with powerhouses such as Collingwood and Richmond.

Perhaps most significantly, the deal will likely give more merit towards Tasmania’s bid for the 19th AFL license, as clubs won’t be as concerned with a 19th clubs expenses.

The new deal is also a massive coup for the AFLW, as it will include a free-to-air broadcast of at least 30 home and away matches per season, including an exclusive broadcast of the AFLW finals and grand final.

The league is also in “active discussions” with involving partners on bringing forward the starting time of Friday night AFL matches, after it was reported that clubs were unhappy with how late the matches started.


PHOTO: Radio commentary boxes at the MCG by Simon Yeo available HERE is used under Creative Commons licence. This image has not modified.