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Foxtel ‘submits bid’ to retain Rugby Australia rights

Australian pay-television operator Foxtel is reported to have submitted an offer for rights to competitions organised by Rugby Australia as it seeks to extend its long-running association with the body.

Rugby Australia’s current five-year rights agreement with Foxtel runs from 2016 to 2020 and is worth a total of A$285m (€174m/$204m).

The current agreement expires on December 31 and Rugby Australia set a deadline of September 4 for broadcasters to return submissions to the tender.

Although Foxtel missed this deadline, the broadcaster continued discussions about extending its deal with Rugby Australia, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The newspaper, citing industry sources, said that Foxtel has submitted a bid for rights to Super Rugby, National Rugby Championship and national team Test matches – the competitions it currently shows.

Last month, it emerged that telecoms operator Optus had opted against participating in Rugby Australia’s latest invitation to tender process, leaving Foxtel in the box seat to retain rights.

In March, Optus was considered to be among the leading candidates to acquire pay-television rights and had reportedly begun to seek out production companies.

Rugby Australia issued a media-rights tender in the middle of February, seeking broadcasters for the period spanning 2021 to 2025, before the body later suspended talks as then-chief executive Raelene Castle conceded that it may need to approach the government for financial assistance due to Covid-19.

Fox Sports, which is run by Foxtel, broadcast the inaugural Super 12 season in 1996 and has backed Australian rugby ever since.

Commercial broadcaster Ten, currently the free-to-air broadcaster for Australia matches, has made an offer to renew its rights deal with Rugby Australia but is said to be seeking a reduction in its fee.

Foxtel sublicenses one delayed Super Rugby match per week to Ten, while Ten simulcasts all of Australia’s domestic tests, the Bledisloe Cup and all Australia matches in The Rugby Championship.

The Herald reported that commercial broadcaster Nine is also in discussions with Rugby Australia over a potential deal and is “watching the negotiation process closely”.