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Paramount/Ten to go at AFL ‘like an 18yo in an all-you-can-drink bar’: Willee


Early on Wednesday morning, The Age reported that a joint bid by Network Ten and its parent company, Paramount will be for ‘everything’ as global streaming bosses have congregated in New York for meetings with AFL executives.

The bid for the rights, beginning in 2025 has seen Paramount enter the fold, as well as Amazon, which is set to produce a bumper deal – far greater than what the AFL currently earns for its broadcasting rights.

Speaking to Mumbrella, media director and GM of Spinach, Ben Willee said Ten and Paramount are going to “have a run at it like an 18-year-old in an all-you-can-drink bar”, as he argued the network “hasn’t recovered” after losing the AFL many moons ago. Ten shared the rights across the 2002-2011 seasons.

On the joint bid, which as it was reported would include a split between Ten and streaming platform Paramount+ for all nine games each round, a Paramount ANZ spokesperson provided the following quote to Mumbrella.

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“We have stated publicly that we will always consider and look at rights to sports as they become available in this market. The Australian media landscape has changed considerably since the broadcast rights for Australian Football League (AFL) last went to tender. Paramount is in a unique position both domestically and globally with platforms including Network 10 and the world’s fastest growing streaming service, Paramount+, and is perfectly poised to bid for broadcast rights for AFL.”

Paramount execs Beverley McGarvey and Jarrod Villani (centre) are in New York this week for talks with AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan

With Nine out of the picture due to its recently penned five-year contract extension with the NRL, the players vying for the lucrative AFL rights will include Paramount, Amazon, Seven, and Foxtel (the latter two currently share the rights).

Niall further wrote in an opinion piece on Wednesday: “Whoever becomes the AFL’s next broadcast partners – Ten and Paramount+ in a joint deal, the incumbents Seven and Foxtel, a combination of those parties or even Amazon in partnership with a free to air network – the AFL is assured of a windfall,” suggesting that whatever the outcome, it signals a future shift to streaming for the leading Australian sports code.

“What’s so great about AFL,” says Willee, “its consistent ratings, that is relatively equal between men and women, delivers prime time ratings consistently, not always in prime time and it’s a great opportunity to promote all of your programs.”

“You only have to look at what Nine did with MAFS and the tennis, the footy just becomes a really great way to create a virtuous circle.”

While Paramount is already home to the A-Leagues, Willee believes while “rates well”, it is “not in the same league as the AFL, pardon the pun”, while also offering a good experiment in how to balance FTA and Paramount+ coverage.

As Niall also suggested, Willee said the auction is “all about getting more money”, highlighting also the potential strain it could add for viewers.

“At some point, if the fans want to watch every game, they’re going to have to buy Kayo or a streaming service, which is what they’re doing now, but the real question is will they have to add a second streaming service to see all of them?”

On the suggestion that the AFL could become as fragmented as football coverage in Australia, with Optus Sport, Paramount+/Ten, Kayo, and Stan Sport all sharing various different local and international competitions, Willee believes, at most, there would be two streaming providers, as free to air, prime time games are still “top of the funnel”.

The current rights deal with Seven and Foxtel is set to deliver the AFL $946 million across 2023 and 2024.



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