Nine and Fox retain Australian NRL rights in A$1.025bn deal

Australian pay-television operator Fox Sports and the Nine commercial television network have retained domestic rights for the National Rugby League, the country’s top rugby league competition.

The deals with the Australian Rugby League Commission – the body that operates the NRL – will run for five years, from 2013 to 2017, and are collectively worth A$1.025 billion (€876 million/$1.08 billion), or A$205 million per year. The agreement comprises A$925 million in cash and A$100 million in advertising inventory.

Fox and Nine paid A$500 million over five years, or A$100 million year, for the domestic rights in the previous cycle, from 2008 to 2012.

Under the new deals, Nine has the rights for three matches per week – two every Friday and one every Sunday – plus three Thursday evening matches, as well as two hours of content each evening on digital Channel 94 and two hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Nine will also show a stand-alone Test match and a City v Country weekend event, as well as the three annual State of Origin matches between Queensland and New South Wales, annual Roosters v Dragons Anzac Day games, the Queensland Super Cup and a night-time Grand Final.

Fox acquired pay-television and IPTV rights for five NRL matches per week from Saturday to Monday. Fox also acquired 13 Sunday evening NRL matches per year, the annual Storm v Warriors Anzac Day games (excluding 2014) and three matches per week from the Toyota Cup, NSW Cup or GIO Schoolboys Cup.

Both networks will cover the Four Nations national team tournament, with the next edition set to take place in 2014. Fox and Nine will also establish two academies in an effort to train players in media presentation skills.

The commission is yet to sell rights in New Zealand, where one of the NRL’s teams is based, or mobile and online rights in Australia and New Zealand.

As part of the new deal, the rights-holders have waived first and last refusal rights for future broadcast negotiations. Commission chairman John Grant said that removing the clause “reflects the positive spirit of the negotiation process and allows the game greater control in determining the value of its assets in the future.”