The Australian Rugby League Commission is expected to allow the three broadcasters to bid for free-to-air rights for the National Rugby League following initial discussions with incumbent broadcast partner Nine Entertainment Co.
Nine executives made a formal presentation to ARLC President Peter V’landys and NRL CEO Andrew Abdo last week, proposing a renewal of their existing rights agreement with the code and outlining their plans for the future.
According to industry sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the conversations were confidential, V’landys did not accept or reject the proposal, but expressed concern about the company’s lack of promotion of rugby league. Nine owns this headend and also controls the digital, broadcast and radio assets.
The long-awaited decision by V’landys and Abdo to bring the rights to NRL to market is aimed at capitalizing on the renewed financial stability of rivals Nine West Media and Network Ten, which were challenged during negotiations last year. The pair have also indicated that they are considering splitting the free-to-air rights for the NRL and other tournaments, such as State of Origin, among multiple networks, an option that Nine strongly opposes.
Nine and V’landys declined to comment. Nine and the NRL renegotiated their existing contract last May in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The television company got a discount on its deal due to the lack of crowds and the temporary suspension of games.
Tensions between the NRL and Nine flared when former Nine CEO Hugh Marks launched a stabbing attack on code leadership last April, describing it as a “bloated head office that completely ignores the needs of clubs, players and fans.” Those comments put pressure on then-NRL CEO Todd Greenberg, who resigned 11 days later. Mr Marks resigned from Nine last year.
NRL’s free-to-air rights are the largest television rights property to be obtained this year. Foxtel, which provides 66 percent of NRL’s streaming revenue, decided to extend its pay-TV deal with the code until 2027 during negotiations last May. Nine did not extend his agreementBut it said at the time that it would save $ 27.5 million in 2021 and again in 2022 under its renegotiated deal.
Seven and Ten have not received any formal documentation on the rights. But both networks have had informal conversations with the NRL, various industry sources said. ViacomCBS and Ten’s Executive Vice President Beverly McGarvey said in an interview with this headline this week that the network would discuss NRL’s rights.
“Well, we have always said that we will watch all sports on a tactical basis, which is still the case and is still the truth. I think the interesting thing now is the tactical basis on which we examine the opportunity that has moved, ”he said.