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Fox Sports to broadcast NRL season live and ad-free in new deal | #NRL @FoxSportsAus

Kevin Perry

The NRL is poised to announce details of a new broadcast deal, which will see all 8 games per round broadcast live and ad-free on Fox Sports for the first time.

Under the terms of the new deal that begins in 2017, Fox Sports will broadcast all games live on a dedicated NRL channel, including 5 exclusive games each week.

It has been a challenging negotiation for Fox Sports, which was completely blindsided in August when the NRL signed a 5-year - $925 Million deal with the Nine Network. Under that deal Nine secured exclusive broadcast and digital rights for Thursday, Friday and Saturday night NRL, plus the main Sunday afternoon fixture.

Having also recently faced the humiliation of loosing EPL rights to Optus, the News Limited owned Fox Sports was forced to negotiate with Nine and the NRL to regain exclusive rights for the Saturday night game.

Under the new deal Nine and Fox Sports will now simulcast the Thursday and main Friday night game, as well as the Sunday evening match. Fox Sports will show Nine’s broadcast of these matches commercial free.

Fox Sports will have exclusive rights for the remaining five matches of the round, including Saturday night football, however Nine will be able to simulcast the last five Saturday night games of each season.

Fox Sports will also have exclusive rights for a limited number of early Friday night games per season. These matches will likely occur in New Zealand, and will allow Fox Sports to have a double-header Friday.

As part of the new arrangement, Fox Sports will boost NRL coverage by launching a dedicated NRL Channel in 2017. The new channel will mirror the hugely successful Fox Footy channel that currently serves AFL fans. The new NRL channel will include a line-up of NRL panel programs including NRL360, which will air 3 nights per week.

It is believed Fox Sports will pay approximately $200 Million per year for the NRL; a figure that compares well with the $216 Million per year the pay-tv broadcaster is paying the AFL for that deal. In total the NRL deal is believed to be worth 1.8 Billion over five years, a figure which will get bigger once rights are sold for New Zealand.

The deal does not include the NRL Grand Final and the 3 State of Origin matches, which will remain exclusive to Nine. The second State of Origin game of each season will be played on a Sunday night from 2017 to help ease the workload on players.

The number of Monday night football matches will be reduced in 2016 and completely eliminated in 2017 as the league moves towards a Thursday night fixture.

Telstra will have mobile device rights for all NRL matches but will be restricted from showing games on its new Telstra TV devices. Nine and Fox Sports will also hold digital right for the matches they host broadcast.

Sources - AFR and The Australian