Off the Wall

The AFL is expected to announce it five year post-2011 free to air and pay television rights agreements today.

It is apparent that the wily CEO of the AFL, Andrew Demetriou, has managed to stitch together the $1 billion package he promised, though it may only be reached with the inclusion of a "new media" agreement with Telstra.

What the NRL, and the 16 clubs, will be interested in is the breakup of the free and pay packages - both in terms of the total payments for each, and what they require the AFL to deliver.

It is clear the big winner as far as the AFL is concerned will be Foxtel. The AFL targeted the pay television sector in its negotiations because it was aware the free to air channels were not in a position to go much above the current deal - between $450 million and $475 million over five years.

And if media reports are accurate the AFL has got what it wanted - with Foxtel lifting its offer from the current $60 million a year to something over $100 million.

In return, Foxtel, and its affiliates will get a massive lift in their coverage - reportedly five stand alone games weekly, and the right to simulcast those shown by the free to air provider, Channel Seven.

This arrangement, if confirmed, should put the NRL in a stronger negotiating position.

If the AFL can get $100 million a year from pay television then the NRL must demand, and get, no less and probably even more.

NRL on Fox massively out rates AFL on Fox - week in week out. Something like 70 of the top 100 programmes on pay television are NRL matches.

That will give the NRL $500 million over five years - almost equal to the TOTAL free and pay television payments under the current agreement.

The free to air component is going to be more complex to predict. It depends if the NRL is able to break-up the package, separating the premiership from origin and test matches.

I will comment further on that when the exact details of the AFL's agreement are known.

But if the AFL is able to get close to $475 million for its new agreement with Seven, then the NRL will surely be able to get close to the same figure.

The one worry I have is that the Foxtel component won't be as high...because Foxtel is clearly paying above the odds to broaden its subscriber base in the southern states, and because the AFL in 2012 will have nine games to sell while the NRL will still have eight.

Time will tell. I will update readers after the AFL agreement is announced - probably later today.

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