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Reports: NRL and Nine nearing AUS$600m broadcast deal

Five-year contract would be largest free-to-air deal in Australian rugby league competition’s history.

18 October 2021 Rory Jones

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  • Nine’s current rights deal with NRL set to expire next year
  • Extension would line up the league’s broadcast deals on FTA and pay-TV until 2027

The National Rugby League (NRL), Australia’s elite rugby league competition, is reportedly close to agreeing a five-year broadcast rights extension with domestic free-to-air (FTA) broadcaster Nine.

According to reports in Australia, the NRL and Nine are set to sign a new five-year deal worth AUS$600 million (US$445 million), which would run until the end of the 2027 season.

The Sydney Morning Held reports that talks are now at an ‘advanced stage’, with an agreement set to be announced in the next two weeks.

Nine’s last deal with the NRL was worth AUS$925 million (US$686 million) for rights to all matches, with the commercial network then sub-licensing five games per week to Foxtel. Nine’s annual NRL fee dropped to AUS$115 million (US$85.2 million) per year, plus AUS$10 million (US$7.4 million) in contra advertising, after it sold on a portion of the contract to the pay-TV network.

After reworking their deals with the NRL amid the pandemic last year, Foxtel and Nine’s contributions changed. Foxtel extended its deal until 2027, while Nine agreed a reduced fee until the end of the 2022 season. Nine indicated that it was saving AUS$27.5 million (US$20.4 million) for 2021, the same amount for 2022, and potentially more for last season due to the modified 2020 campaign. In total, it was reported that the NRL would receive AUS$2 billion (US$1.5 billion) over the course of those reworked contracts.

Even without the pandemic, Nine’s road to a renewed deal for the upcoming cycle has been rocky, with its FTA rival Channel Seven also keen on the NRL’s rights. There was also criticism of the network from Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys over what he perceived as a lack of promotion around Nine’s live NRL content.

A renewal of the NRL’s partnership with Nine until 2027 would see the league line up both its FTA and pay-TV broadcast deals, with the fees strong enough to cover the introduction of the Redcliffe Dolphins expansion outfit. The NRL recently confirmed that the Queensland-based team would become its 17th franchise and will join the league in 2023.

Foxtel, which is owned by Australian media conglomerate News Corp, also recently agreed to inject more funding into the NRL to help pay for the expansion team, in return for the rights to broadcast more exclusive Brisbane Broncos matches.

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