Last Monday’s NRL rights deal that saw Nine pay overs to cover the game from 2018 to 2022 should play nicely into the hands of the AFL who are in the process of renegotiating its rights.
Nine surprised everybody last week when it paid a whopping $925 million for the four-year deal that landed the network four live games a week. The offer was reportedly so good the NRL signed on the dot, infuriating other bidders who believed they never got a fair look-in during negotiations.
However, the failed bidders – namely Foxtel, Ten and Seven – will go hard for the AFL rights which insiders believe will be heavily inflated due to a bidding war and the benchmark set by the NRL.
The main player here is the News- (and Telstra-)owned Foxtel. The pay TV player is yet to announce what it will pay for the NRL rights considering Nine now has half the games live and all rights to the digital broadcasts. The NRL reportedly wants $1.7 billion for the rights for the four years meaning Foxtel would be expected to stump-up close to $800 million.
In a piece in the News-owned The Australian this morning its media and entertainment writer Michael Bodey reports that News are reportedly livid at the Nine-NRL deal. Foxtel is also planning to buy a 15 per cent stake in Network Ten and had hoped to give the struggling free-to-air station a live NRL game of itself.
Bodey suggests that News are so furious about the deal with Nine they could even turn their league-focused tabloids in NSW and Queensland towards the AFL.
“The NRL’s seeming abandonment of the benefits of round-the-clock coverage of its sport on Fox Sports and in News Corp newspapers and digital sites, including The Daily Telegraph and Courier-Mail, is likely to see News Corp’s attention swing to the AFL,” Bodey wrote. He also infers that News will spend up big to ensure the AFL rights and believes there could be some form of AFL-NRL broadcast war as the AFL programs more live games against the NRL.
Foxtel will lose its Monday night game in the new Nine deal and there has been speculation it may ditch its NRL commentary/opinion programming.
Last week, sports marketing specialist, Jack Watts from Bastion EBA told B&T, that its deal had been a coup for Nine and, yes, the AFL would be worried that league now had an increased reach and was dominating in Sydney, Brisbane and increasingly in Melbourne too.
“On the other hand it also sets a benchmark for the AFL’s upcoming broadcast rights deal,” Watts said. “The big thing here is that the NRL has gone first to market and they know their plans. Nine can get to market before the AFL. But as you say there’s only so much money to go around from brands and Nine and the NRL and the clubs can go to market immediately with security around what the broadcast rights now look like.”