Channel Seven is reportedly looking to swoop in and steal the broadcast rights for the NRL in 2020, according to reports.
The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting Seven has reached out to the NRL about the possibility of broadcasting NRL matches, should Nine wish to relinquish one of its three live games.
Whether or not Seven’s hopes to broadcast the NRL in 2020 comes to fruition rests heavily on today’s broadcast meeting between Nine boss Hugh Marks, Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany and ARLC chairman Peter V’landys.
Nine – which is in the strongest negotiating position out of the three parties – is reportedly angling for the NRL to scrap the weekly Friday 6pm and Thursday night fixture as a way to maximise ratings.
It has also been reported Nine would prefer for the season to be cancelled altogether as a way to save money during this time.
Foxtel, on the other hand, is not looking to change its existing simulcast, per the Herald.
This is despite reports Nine is on the hunt for exclusive matches.
So where does Seven fit in?
Should the NRL opt to keep the Thursday and early Friday night slots, against Nine’s wishes, the NRL may turn to Seven as a potential FTA broadcaster.
An existing friendship between Seven boss James Warburton and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg adds fuel to the whispers.
Despite the dire financial health of the network, the cancellation/postponement of sporting events such as the Tokyo Olympics and Wimbledon could create some budget room for Seven.
Then there’s the matter of the AFL.
Seven is currently the FTA broadcaster for the AFL which, like the NRL, is currently suspended as a result of COVID-19.
The AFL made an early call to shorten the 2020 season from 23 rounds to 17, resulting in a 15-20 per cent reduction in the existing broadcast deal.
However, while the NRL is clearly desperate to get back onto the field and start generating broadcast revenue once more – setting the ambitious return date of May 28 – the AFL is far more coy.
While the NRL is believed to be in poor financial health, the AFL is in a far stronger position, having purchased Melbourne’s Docklands Stadium (now named Marvel Stadium) for $200 million in 2016.
Having an asset of this size has allowed the AFL to get a line of credit from the banks.
Like the NRL, there are reports the AFL is planning a ‘quarantine hub’ model to get the season restarted, Seven’s interest in the NRL could suggest there may be no return-to-play for the AFL in 2020.