Nine and Seven take up strategic positions on AFL, State of Origin rights – report

Australian commercial broadcaster Nine will make a “bold bid” for a package of rights to the Australian Football League Aussie rules competition, prompting a retaliatory move by rival Seven for the State of Origin rugby league series, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The newspaper said the strategy from Nine and Seven is part of an effort to boost their respective ratings in their non-traditional sports states. The Herald stated that should Nine acquire an AFL game for the popular Sunday afternoon slot and Seven secure State of Origin rights, Australia’s two leading free-to-air networks would have stakes in territory where they struggle for advertising dollars.

Nine’s bid for an AFL Sunday afternoon game will reportedly not be at the expense of its coverage of an NRL rugby league match in the same time slot, through the use of multi-channelling to broadcast games simultaneously.

“Both codes could co-exist on Nine by flip-flopping (between stations),” an executive close to the negotiations told the Herald. “Wherever you live in Australia, you could watch Sunday afternoon football on Nine. That's a valuable franchise and a bragging right.”

The Australian Rugby League Commission, the body which runs the National Rugby League, is said to be willing to sell NRL games and the State of Origin as separate packages in a bid to attract the interest of both Seven and fellow commercial broadcaster Ten. Wednesday night Origin matches would not conflict with Seven’s AFL coverage.

The AFL is set to begin talks in the coming months over a new five-year rights cycle, from 2017 to 2021, and chief executive Gillon McLachlan has already held talks with various television executives in recent weeks.

The NRL has stepped up negotiations over its next rights deal, initiating talks with broadcasters in April to ensure that deals for the AFL don’t significantly reduce competition in the market.

Negotiations between the broadcasters and the NRL – whose existing rights deals expire after the 2017 season – are now taking place in tandem with the AFL, creating fierce competition in the Australian sports rights market.