Not content with flying cars, odd-looking glasses, human immortality and generally owning the entire planet, rumours are circulating that Google is interested in taking on the rights to the NRL too.
Newspaper reports this morning suggest the NRL has contacted the technology behemoth about the possibility of streaming live games as the governing body makes a bold switch to digital and aims to capture a younger, digital-savvy audience.
However, what the rights deal would involve is still unclear and where that would leave existing broadcasters Channel Nine and Foxtel is also uncertain.
Monday’s announcement that Foxtel has bought into Channel Ten could also mean a new player emerges when the current rights agreements expire in 2017. It has been reported that when the rights come up for renewal they could be worth in excess of $A2 billion and the NRL may choose to split up different properties (Tests and State of Origin) among different (highest) bidders.
Any new agreement would also be privy to exiting anti-siphoning laws.
There was reports in the press over the past days that conversations between the NRL and Google had begun. It is believed that the NRL is particularly interested in working with Google as it knows its younger audience is now consuming games on smartphones and tablets and it certainly wants to beat arch-rival’s the AFL to the digital streaming punch. The NRL, the AFL and Football Australia are all spending monster dollars trying to attract the next generation of fans to its relevant sports.
It also leaves open the option that different competitions could morph out of the existing NRL to cater to different media organisations. In the past, expanded sevens tournaments, youth tournaments and competitions among the league-loving Polynesian nations have all been mooted. An expansion of the highly lucrative State of Origin series – featuring players outside of NSW and Queensland – could also prove a massive boost to NRL coffers.
The NRL is also looking to expand the game with additional teams. There has already been very strong interest for an NRL license from the NSW Central Coast, Western Brisbane, North Queensland and Perth. New Zealand is also said to be badgering hard for a second team across the Tasman – most likely to be based in league-loving Auckland – as a bulwark to the all-conquering All Blacks.