NRL inks $1.8 billion record TV rights deal

NRL inks $1.8 billion record TV rights deal - 26th November 2015


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Estimates suggest the total NRL rights package could be worth $1.8 billion over five years, including pay television, free-to-air, digital and international rights. Photo: Getty Images

by Dominic White and Max Mason

The National Rugby League has signed off on a $1.8 billion five-year television rights deal, as foreshadowed by Fairfax Media.

While all the parties involved are understood to be in agreement in principle on the details the formal documentation is still being pulled together by lawyers and advisers.

An announcement and press conference is being prepared for Thursday afternoon in Sydney with News Corp's Fox Sports set to pay around $1 billion for the pay television portion of the rights, which will include a dedicated pay television channel from the 2017/18 season.

As revealed by Fairfax Media, Nine Entertainment Co is expected reduce its bill for the TV rights to the NRL by about $300 million over five years to $625 million after selling exclusive rights to Saturday night games for most of the season to Fox Sports. The free-to-air broadcaster will retain about five Saturday night games at the end of each season.

Simulcast rights will be shared by Fox Sports, Nine and Telstra.

Fox Sports has acquired the rights to the crucial Saturday night game from Nine for around $175 million.

The new structure will be introduced progressively over the 2016 season and into 2017, with Monday night football initially remaining on Foxtel.

Nine's new chief executive Hugh Marks was flying back to Sydney from Brisbane on Thursday and News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson flew into Sydney from the US to oversee final negotiations on behalf of the Murdoch-family controlled company.

It's believed that Fox Sports, under the proposed agreement, will simulcast Nine's games for about $25 million a season, which will reduce Nine's bill by $125 million over the five-year deal.

Combined with the $35 million per season reduction for giving back the Saturday night game to Fox Sports, for $175 million over five years, Nine's total bill for its NRL rights is expected to be about $625 million, down from the $925 million deal it struck in August.

The current TV rights arrangements expire at the end of the 2017 season.

Nine confirmed on Thursday morning that was in negotiations with the Australian Rugby League Commission, after Fairfax Media revealed on Wednesday night that News Corp was poised to sign a new deal with the NRL.

"Nine confirms that it is in discussions with the ARLC and Fox Sports about a potential variation to Nine's rights to broadcast NRL matches. No agreement has been reached on any transaction," Nine said in a statement.

"Should an agreement be reached, Nine will make an appropriate announcement to the market in accordance with its disclosure obligations."

(Fairfax Media)