After much media speculation in recent weeks, Channel Nine has secured the rights to the NRL until 2022 in a mega deal that brings with it a number of changes to the game. The existing rights expire in 2018.
The new deal means Nine – the existing free-to-air- rights holder – will pay a reported $925 million over the four years. Nine is currently paying $90 million a year for the rights in a deal that is signed in 2012.
For the massive injection of cash Nine gets to show a set-to-be-announced Thursday night game, Friday night game, Saturday night and the usual Sunday afternoon match. It’s believed that only one game will be aired on Friday nights instead of the two games stacked after one another that is the current format. The new rights package means Nine will now get to air four games instead of the existing three.
The deal also includes the rights to the highly lucrative State of Origin series. However, it has been reported that the three-games series will move to a stand alone weekend and the game be played on Sunday evening. With the regular clubs all being rested on that weekend, the NRL will also introduce Tests at the same time between the Pacific Island nations.
Nine boss David Gyngell hailed the new deal and said in a statement. “Rugby League is part of Nine’s DNA. This is a transformational outcome for supporters, Rugby League and Nine, enabling viewers to see the best of the NRL, live and free, four days per week, anywhere, on any device.
“As the audience for television fragments, the value and marketing power of free, live premium sport across multiple media cannot be underestimated.”
Where this leaves the other players who were after the rights is anyone’s guess. As B&T reported last week, Foxtel and Channel Ten were set to throw some mega dollars the NRL’s way to secure some sort of joint package that would have had games shown live and free-to-air on Ten.
Foxtel will obviously want part of the action but what it’s prepared to pay – considering Nine now has the bulk of the games, live and for free – remains unclear.
Seven was also reportedly not too keen to be missing out on some NRL action too. Although it is unclear if the network bid for the rights and in what shape that took.
Speaking to the News Corp media this morning the boss of the NRL, Dave Smith, said of the pay TV opportunities. “The digital media market is changing rapidly and it is our view that new and exciting opportunities will develop with Fox Sports and other providers,” Smith said.
“By 2018, the digital world will be very different and we want to be in the best possible position to take advantage of any changes.
“So negotiations with the pay TV and digital providers will continue and, again, our focus will be on ensuring the most widespread coverage on whatever platform fans choose to watch rugby league.”