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Nine and Fox Sports in talks over revamped NRL deal – report

Australian commercial broadcaster Nine and pay-television broadcaster Fox Sports are in talks over a new rights deal for the NRL that could see all games from the club rugby league competition covered live for the first time, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The Australian newspaper, citing NRL sources, said a revamped proposal worth A$1.8bn (€1.18bn/$1.31bn) would result in Fox Sports showing every game live. Three games per round would be simulcast with Nine – including a proposed new Friday night timeslot at 6pm. The 6pm game would reportedly replace the Monday night fixture.

The Telegraph said the new schedule could come into effect as early as next season if the NRL’s independent commission can finalise the broadcasting deal by the end of next week. The newspaper added that the exit of former NRL chief executive Dave Smith was the trigger for a resumption in negotiations.

Smith announced his departure last month and had been a polarising figure at the helm of the NRL, bearing criticism for his handling of rights negotiations with broadcasters this year. In August, Nine retained domestic rights for the NRL in a deal that doubled the value of its free-to-air rights fee for the league. The agreement was worth A$185m per season over five years, from 2018 to 2022.

However, Fox Sports was cast aside from the talks and has since co-signed a six-year A$2.5bn deal with commercial broadcaster Seven and digital provider Telstra for domestic rights to Aussie rules competition the AFL. Smith exited his position with the NRL’s pay-television and digital rights yet to be settled, and with the league facing a battle to match the record deal struck by the AFL.