Australian Rules-AFL signs record $3 billion rights deal with Seven, Foxtel

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Australian Football League has landed the biggest sports broadcast rights deal in the country’s history with a seven-year A$4.5 billion ($3.06 billion) extension agreed with the Seven Network, Foxtel and Telstra.

The deal, running from 2025 to 2031, covers free-to-air, pay TV and online streaming for the top flight of Australian Rules football, and dwarfs the previous record of A$2.5 billion paid by the same media partners for the 2017-2022 rights.

The 2017-2022 deal was renegotiated and extended to 2024 for an extra A$946 million after the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020.

Competition helped drive up the price for the 2025-2031 rights, with Network 10, the Nine Network and their streaming platforms also bidding.

“Importantly, this announcement means we’ll have at least the same number of free-to-air games on the Seven Network,” the AFL’s outgoing Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan said at a media conference on Tuesday.

“This partnership is an incredible result, unprecedented and the biggest in Australian sport.”

The Australian government last month weighed in on the AFL’s rights negotiations, calling for “no diminution” in the availability of matches on free-to-air TV.

Australia’s “anti-siphoning” laws ban pay TV providers from acquiring significant sporting events unless a free-to-air broadcaster also has the right to televise them.

The Seven Network and Foxtel have shared the AFL rights since 2012.

($1 = 1.4691 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford