It’s been brewing for some time and the media outlets have been jokeying for position and now news has emerged of the new NRL rights deal reportedly set to double the existing deal to $2 billion over four years from 2018.
News Corp’s The Daily Telegraph is this morning reporting the new deal would see every game screened live be it on a free-to-air station or Foxtel.
The current second Friday night game – often screened as a delayed telecast at 10.30pm on Nine – will be scrapped in favour of a Thursday evening prime-time game instead. Monday night football is also set to go; although that seems odd considering pubs pay Foxtel good coin to air it on the quietest drinking night of the week. The NRL – and its myriad of sponsors – aren’t that excited about Foxtel-only games too, as less than one in three NRL fans reportedly pay for the subscription.
The boost in revenues would flow-on to clubs, with each of the 16 NRL teams receiving as much as $12 million each (up $4 million). The salary cap is mooted to increase to $11 million per season (up from the exiting $7.5 million) meaning the game’s stars could add a further 50 per cent to an annual salary of $1 million. It may also stem the flood of stars taking big-money offers overseas.
The Tele is reporting that the deal comes with no caveats that extra teams need to be added to the competition – despite a number of franchises rattling the cage for inclusion including a second Brisbane and New Zealand team and Perth. Nor does the deal address one of the game’s biggest issues – poor crowd attendances. An issue that is only likely to worsen with more games live on TV.
Nine looks set to retain most of the free-to-air games; however, Foxtel’s pending 15 per cent stake in Ten means the pay TV subscriber is likely to cough-up a game for its adopted brother. It’s doubted that Foxtel will pay the mega-bucks for rights if Ten’s excluded from any deal.
It should be noted, however, that the ACCC has yet to approve the Foxtel-Ten merger, while many media commentators have questioned Ten’s continued viability if the deal with the pay TV provider doesn’t come through.
There had been reports that the NRL wanted to sell spin-offs – such as the highly lucrative State of Origin series and Tests – to the highest bidder. However, there has been no confirmation where those games will air or what format they might take. Some commentators have called for Origin games to be played on stand-alone weekends and not the present Wednesday evenings.
But all this leaves the question: will Kerry Stokes’ Seven make a play for the rights too and, if so, in what form? Seven is the current ratings and revenue king and it’s highly unlikely it would sit back and watch arch rival Nine snare all the NRL rights (and possibly the AFL too) to take back its number one crown.
But whatever happens, it does appear the players and fans will win out in this one.