The recent rankling and bickering around the NRL rights deal looks likely to end with Foxtel set to re-enter the fray and channel Nine appearing willing to concede some games.
The News-owned Foxtel was reportedly furious when the initial deal was announced in August giving Channel Nine the bulk of the games for the 2018-2022 seasons albeit for $925 million.
To add insult to injury, the Nine deal meant that Foxtel lost its prized live games on Saturday and Monday nights. There had also been reports that Foxtel was to be snubbed altogether for a circling Optus. There’d even been reports that then NRL boss Dave Smith was considering leaving out the pay TV players altogether in favour of a live streaming deal.
However, media reports this morning have said that all the major players – News, Nine and NRL’s chief sponsor Telstra (who also part-owns Foxtel) – are set to finally come to an amicable agreement.
It is believed that Foxtel will regain sole broadcasting rights to a Saturday evening match and will get the rights to a 6pm Friday night match too. The Friday game would be a precursor to Nine’s high-rating 8pm game and feature teams that don’t pull big TV audiences in the Sydney and Brisbane markets.
Although what Foxtel will pay for the four year deal is yet to be announced, but the NRL was hoping to double the deal it did with Nine and take the rights package to $1.85 billion over the four years.
However, that’s still a long way short of the $2.5 billion the AFL netted recently despite bigger audiences for this year’s NRL grand final over its Australian Rules counterpart. And, of course, the NRL has the most lucrative thing on Australian TV – the State of Origin series.
If the deal were to go ahead, NRL fans would then get all eight games live either on free-to-air or on Foxtel. Nine would most likely air live matches on Thursday night, Friday night and possibly two Sunday afternoon games.
The new deal would also put pay to the breakaway competition that had been mooted by some NRL club bosses angry at the recent rights bungling. The competition was to feature 12 elite teams including new entrants. Who was to survive the cull and new areas to be enlisted had never been made public.