The Nine Network has secured a new deal National Rugby League rights for the 2018 to 2022 seasons.
Under this agreement, NIne has acquired the exclusive Free-to-Air rights to broadcast 4 premium live games a week on each of Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons, as well as the Finals series, State-of-Origin, and other special event matches. NIne has also acquired all free streaming rights for these games. The NRL may elect to grant pay-TV operators simulcast rights for certain games, however details of this are yet to be confirmed.
NIne' average cost over the new rights period amounts to $185m per annum, inclusive of contra, which will be reduced if the NRL elects to grant pay simulcast rights for certain games. The figure is double what Nine is paying for its current deal but provides the network a much improved outcome.
The second State of Origin game of each season will now be played on a Sunday night to help ease the workload on players. The NRL has also confirmed Monday night football will not be part of any new deal.
Responding to questions from this website, the Nine Network has declined from making any commitment to broadcasting the NRL in High Definition.
The new deal is a blow for the AFL, whom would have been hoping a competitive deal from Nine would have push up the price in its negotiations. With Nine Network now committed to four days of NRL coverage, it's unlikely to make a serious bid for the AFL. A ch9 spokesperson today refused to confirm Nine was still in the hunt for AFL rights telling this website the network was "not commenting on that."
Sources at Fox Sports seemed surprised by the new deal today. The pay-tv broadcaster had hoped to secure simulcast rights for all NRL games, similar to its current AFL deal with Seven. Fox Sports remains in negotiations with the NRL board with a spokesperson today refusing to answer this websites questions regarding when a deal is likely to be secured.
Digital rights for NRL also remain on the negotiation table. Nine has secured non-exclusive rights to the games it broadcasts, and Fox Sports will be seeking a similar deal. Telco's such as Telstra and Optus are also expected to make big offers for mobile rights.
Nine is promising Rugby League fans will enjoy a vastly improved experience – four premium live games each week, more than doubling live coverage to over 270 hours per season.
David Gyngell, CEO of NIne Entertainment, said: “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, 4 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.”