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Fox Sports makes demand to commit to new NRL deal – report

Australian pay-television broadcaster Fox Sports will demand that club rugby league competition the NRL reverses its decision to remove its top-rating Saturday evening game from its new deal with commercial broadcaster Nine if it is to commit to a new contract of its own, according to The Australian newspaper.

Nine this month retained domestic rights for the National Rugby League in a deal that will double its free-to-air rights fee for the competition. The agreement is worth A$185m (€125m/$137m) per year over five years, from 2018 to 2022.

Nine will show live coverage of four games per week on free-to-air television and digital platforms on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, and Sunday afternoons at 4pm. The deal includes coverage of the final series and the State of Origin representative series.

The Australian said Fox Sports would “refuse to even contemplate” paying a premium for rights to the remaining NRL matches unless it can regain control of the showpiece Saturday match handed to Nine under the terms of its 2018-2022 deal.

The newspaper added that Nine has not ruled out surrendering the game rights – provided that Fox Sports agrees to sell Nine a Saturday game from Aussie rules football league the AFL.

The Australian Football League last week awarded its next cycle of domestic rights to commercial broadcaster Seven, pay-television operator Foxtel and telco Telstra.

The rights will cover six seasons, from 2017 to 2022, and will be worth a total of A$2.508bn, or A$418m per year. Foxtel, which will show live coverage of every AFL game apart from the Grand Final, has the right to sublicense one game per round each weekend in the Saturday 3.20pm AEST time slot to a free-to-air broadcaster.