In the latest interactive monthly data report, SportBusiness Media analyses the media-rights landscape in Australia.
Further detail on the deals covered in this interactive data report is available with our Rights Tracker tool – click here for more information.
Market value and players
SportBusiness Media estimates that in 2019 the Australian media-rights market was worth about $965m, accounting for almost two per-cent of global media-rights values.
Pay-television broadcaster Foxtel dominates the market, despite recent struggles with declining subscriber numbers. It owns rights to seven out of the top ten properties in the country.
There are three main commercial broadcasters – Nine Network, Network Ten, and Seven Network – in the free-to-air rights market in the country.
Telecommunications companies Telstra and Optus are also active in the market.
The recent Covid-19 pandemic has strongly impacted media rights in Australia, with many rights-holders having to renegotiate high-value domestic deals with broadcasters at a reduced rate.
Aussie Rules, Rugby League
Aussie rules football and rugby league accounted for almost 54 per cent of the Australian media-rights market in 2019.
The postponement of the Australian Football League (AFL) and the suspension of the National Rugby League (NRL) following the Covid-19 pandemic, has led to tough negotiations between rights-holder and broadcaster over the last few months.
Foxtel also negotiated a 15-per-cent reduction in its average annual rights fee for NRL rights in the 2020-22 cycle, from A$138m down to A$117.3m. The pay-television broadcaster was also able to negotiate a 15-per-cent reduction on the A$60m per year sublicensing deal it had agreed with Nine. Both five-year deals started in 2018.
Both the AFL and NRL also renegotiated their free-to-air deals, with Seven and Nine, respectively. Seven negotiated a 19-per-cent reduction in its average annual rights fee for the 2020-22 cycle, from A$150m down to A$121m. Nine negotiated a 20-per-cent reduction in its average annual rights fee for the 2020-22 cycle, from A$185m down to A$125m in 2020. In the remaining two years of its deal, 2021 and 2022, Nine will pay about A$157.5m per year.
However, both leagues were able to secure long-term renewals in this time of uncertainty. AFL extended its contract for a further two years with Seven, covering 2023 and 2024, worth A$173.5m per year and NRL agreed to a five-year extension of its contract with Foxtel, from 2023 to 2028, worth about A$198m per year.
The AFL and NRL mobile rights partner, Telstra, decided to honour both its six-year contract with AFL worth about A$50m per year from 2017 to 2022 and its five-year contract with NRL worth about A$37m per year from 2018 to 2022.
Cricket accounted for almost 15 per-cent of the total Australian sports-rights market value in 2019.
Cricket Australia, the country’s national cricket board, earns about A$197m ($149m) per season for all its domestic rights (including the domestic Big Bash League) for six seasons, from 2018-19 to 2023-24.
Foxtel pays about A$105m per season in rights fee for the majority of the boards’ rights. Seven pays about A$75m per season in rights fee to simulcast with Foxtel some national-team Test matches and around 70 per cent of the BBL matches per season.
The rest of the value is paid in marketing and advertising, with Foxtel and Seven paying A$7m and A$10m, respectively.
The deal represents a 52-per-cent increase on Cricket Australia’s previous five-season deals with Nine and Ten, from 2013-14 to 2017-18.
Until now, neither broadcasters has renegotiated its deal with Cricket Australia in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, although the national federation expects tough conversations with the broadcasters over potential event postponements and cancellations.
Foxtel dominates the Australian cricket market, and as well as domestic cricket, it also holds rights to the Caribbean Premier League, Cricket South Africa’s events, Cricket New Zealand’s events, the Indian Premier League, and the ICC properties.
As well as the key domestic sports rights, Foxtel also holds rights to the country’s domestic soccer leagues, the men’s A-League and Women’s W-League, as well as the national team friendly matches. Its deal with Football Federation Australia for these rights was originally for six years, from 2017-18 to 2022-23, worth about A$57.7m per season.
However, following the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2020 A-League season subsequent postponement, Foxtel terminated its rights contract with the FFA using a force majeure clause. It then agreed to a new deal that covers the remainder of the 2019-20 A-League season and the 2020-21 campaign worth about A$32m.
The pay-television broadcaster sublicensed mobile rights for six years to Telstra and free-to-air rights to Network Ten, from 2017 to 2019. In 2019, the FFA sold these rights directly to public broadcaster ABC, in a two-year deal from 2019 to 2021.
The value of rugby union’s media rights has been impacted by a substantial downturn in interest in recent years.
The 2019 Rugby World Cup’s Australian rights suffered a 42-per-cent decrease in value compared to the previous edition in 2015. In addition, governing body Rugby Australia has struggled to sell its domestic rights for 2021 onward.
The national rugby federation is in the final year of its broadcast deal with Foxtel, which covered the five years from 2016 to 2020. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the deal with Rugby Australia was worth about $25m per year covering all its domestic rights together with the Super Rugby and Rugby Championship tournaments. In May 2020, Foxtel negotiated a discount for this year of at least 30 per cent.
Foxtel sublicenses free-to-air rights to one match per match-week to Network Ten on a delayed basis.
The value of tennis media rights in the country has been boosted by the start of a new deal in 2020 for the top domestic property: the Australian Open.
Nine Network secured rights for the Australian Open over five years, from 2020 to 2024, in a deal worth about A$60m per year. It represented a massive shock to the market since as well as being a 50-per-cent increase in value from the previous deal, Nine also outbid rival Seven, which had held rights for the last 46 years.
The domestic V8 Supercars motor-racing series has two six-year deals with Ten Network and Foxtel from 2015 to 2020. The agreements are worth a total of A$241m.
Supercars held its first round of the 2020 season in February, before having to suspend the competition due to the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.
The rights-holder, consequently, halted talks over a new broadcasting deal while Foxtel tried to sign a revised deal for the 2020 season, along with a reduced long-term agreement that could move the season to later in the year.
International motorsports properties are also important for local broadcasters. Foxtel holds rights to Formula One from 2018 to 2022 in a deal worth just over $25m per year. It sublicenses some free-to-air rights to Network Ten in a four-year deal worth about $5m per year. MotoGP rights are held by Ten and Foxtel in a three-year deal from 2019 to 2021.