Foxtel secures NRL rights to 2027 as Nine finalises extension

Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) has today (Thursday) marked the resumption of its 2020 season by agreeing fresh rights deals with pay-television operator Foxtel and commercial free-to-air broadcaster Nine.

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC), Foxtel and Nine have agreed to deals that recommit both broadcasters to the current rights period until the end of 2022, but Foxtel has also extended its contract for a further five years until the end of the 2027 campaign.

The agreements come after various reports in the Australian press in recent weeks over the status of the contracts amid the NRL’s battle to return to action during Covid-19. Earlier this month, Peter V’Landys, chairman of the ARLC, said that fresh agreements were close with Nine and Fox reported to be seeking significant cuts in their rights fees under any extensions.

At the tail end of 2015, the ARLC finalised domestic rights agreements with Fox and Nine for 2018 to 2022 that were worth A$323m (€194.1m/$213.5m) per season.

Financial terms of the new deals were not disclosed, but in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange, Nine said it expects to save an average of A$27.5m per year for the 2021 and 2022 financial year, with a greater saving in the current financial year following the suspension of the season in March.

While the NRL will need to take its future free-to-air rights (from 2023 onwards) to market at a later date, Fox is now locked in for the foreseeable future.

V’landys said today: “I am delighted to have worked with our long-standing partners Foxtel and Nine to reshape and resume the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership. It is significant that on one of the most important days in our game’s history, we have finalised the deals to ensure its future.

“Our negotiations were tough but always in a spirit of goodwill and shared ambitions for the betterment of rugby league. We could not have reached our May 28 restart ambitions without the teamwork and collaboration of our partners.

“These deals provide certainty to ensure our 16 clubs remain strong and that we can continue to invest in grassroots rugby league across our communities.”

For the resumed 2020 season, Foxtel will continue to show all eight games every round, including five exclusive broadcasts each weekend. Nine will continue to televise three weekly NRL matches, namely on Thursday and Friday nights, plus Sunday afternoon.

Nine will provide exclusive coverage of the October 25 Grand Final and will continue its exclusive coverage of the three State of Origin matches, to be held this year over three weeks on November 4, 11 and 18.

Foxtel chief executive Patrick Delany said: “This is a great outcome for footy, for fans and for players. It’s also a hugely important signal to everyone in Australia, and around the world, that we will get through these times, and we can keep players and coaching staff safe while we all enjoy the game.”

Nine’s chief executive, Hugh Marks, added: “The team at Nine are in this for the long term and we all look forward to working with the NRL and all the stakeholders, as we continue to build on the success of the game for its long term future.”