COMMENT: Why McLachlan Is Playing With Fire Trying To Flog AFL Rights To Yank Networks
It appears that retiring AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan wants to go out with the AFL awash in cash from a new broadcasting deal, a move that could see one of Australia’s greatest sports, streamed in Australia by a US network whose reputation when it comes to streaming sports events such as A League is woeful.
McLachlan has flagged his interest in securing a landmark broadcast deal for the sport before he steps down as CEO at the end of the current season, with a streaming component set to be a major part of any rights deal moving forward.
Foxtel has taken sports broadcasting whether it’s NRL or AFL to a new level in Australia, the big question now is whether Amazon Prime or Paramount + will actually invest in delivering the same level of content and above all the same quality that today Foxtel deliver every night of the week.
It appears that all McLachlan is interested in is money not necessarily the good of the AFL game when it comes to the delivery of content and coverage of the game.
Both News Corp and Foxtel have to be credited with helping McLachlan grow brand AFL in Australia, and I am pretty confident that the 65% owner of Foxtel and the Foxtel production team will be given a right royal two finger salute if the yanks offer more money to take over the streaming rights.
What McLachlan has to factor in when deciding over streaming rights is that combined, Foxtel and Kayo have between them 2.4M subscribers.
Paramount + who have struggled to grow interest in A League are most likely the best candidate as CBS Viacom who own Channel 10 and Paramount + are able to offer a free to air TV offering and streaming via Paramount + the only problem is that Ten has few free to air viewers and Paramount + a poor streaming service in Australia especially when it comes to sport.
This is a network that’s languished in 3rd and often fourth spot in Australia and if the recent Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, is anything to go by Foxtel, a paid for service got more viewers than Channel Ten who had the free to air rights.
If McLachlan does force a change of streaming providers, AFL Foxtel fans will be forced to sign up to a new streaming platform a move that could see tens of thousands of fans giving the new platform a miss because of poor quality coverage or they prefer staying with a network who does multiple sports really well, while giving consumers the flexibility of being able to watch AFL on multiple devices.
I also doubt that News Corp whose publications, are the bibles in Australia for AFL and NRL sports coverage are going to help promote the new streaming partner.
AFL in the hands of yanks just doesn’t seem right.
Currently McLachlan is putting on a dog and pony show in the USA in an effort to build the perception, that Amazon Prime Video and Paramount +, two big US content groups are actually interested in bidding for the AFL rights.
Personally, I think he is trying to get more than the $350 million he got last time from Foxtel, and the dog and pony show is more an exercise in negotiation charades in an effort to get Stan, seven + and Foxtel to outbid each other for streaming rights.
Because if Amazon Prime Video or Paramount + get the rights I am confident that the losers will be AFL fans and the AFL code.
The big question is whether these organisations have the passion and local knowledge to actually deliver coverage as good as what Foxtel delivers today.
You only have to watch the Paramount + coverage of A League to see how bad sports coverage of a code can actually get when a yank owned network tries to deliver a local code.
Not only are consumers deserting soccer they are failing to sign up for A League on Paramount +.
Then there is the issue of AFL being streamed into foreign markets in an effort to recover costs associated with the deal.
AFL is an Australian Southern States code that even struggles to get traction in some parts of Australia let alone outside of Australia where the biggest audience is ex pats.
McLachlan who is set to retire this year is desperate to go out on a high having engineered, an increase in fees the AFL gets from a streaming Company.
That’s his prerogative, but he has an obligation to make sure that the game is presented up to the same standard that Foxtel is delivering today for fans.
The AFL claim that they are in “deep in negotiations” to secure a fresh TV broadcast deal, however this could be all huff and puff especially if Amazon Prime Video and Paramount + who already have relationships with Foxtel decide not to bid.
Channel 7 has owned free to air rights for AFL matches since 2010, but McClure is reporting that amid a “level of frustration” at AFL House around the direction of their broadcasts, Channel 10 could be in the running to secure a landmark deal.
ChannelNews understands that McLachlan is also keen to talk to Google and Apple US organisations that are also investing in sports coverage and with Netflix subscribers falling, there is the real possibility that a new avenue for Netflix could be coverage of sport such as the NRL or AFL.
They already have a large subscriber base in Australia and unlike Paramount + they are in a better position to offer current subscribers a sports package.