NRL ‘close to’ A$2.3bn media rights extensions

Australia’s National Rugby League has been reported by local media to be this week agreeing seven-year domestic media rights deals worth nearly A$2.3bn ($1.5bn/€1.4bn).

Peter V’Landys, chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission, told Australian news publisher News Corp that he expects the deals, which are extensions of existing agreements with free-to-air broadcaster Nine and pay-television broadcaster Foxtel, to be done by Friday.

The new agreements would cover the remaining three years of the current, 2018-22 cycle, plus four-year extensions until the end of 2026.

Free-to-air broadcaster Seven’s news website reported the deals would be worth an average of A$330m per season. This would be an increase on the A$323m per season the league earns from the two broadcasters under the existing deals for 2018-22. Two weeks ago, Nine and Fox were reported to be seeking large cuts in their rights fees under any extensions. Seven said the payments in the new deal would included a “discounted rate” for 2020, because the season will be shortened this year due to Covid-19. The NRL season is to restart on May 28.

V’Landys was reported by to have said in relation to the mooted new deals: “Both partners have acted in great faith and I believe we’re very close…The loyalty factor has been important because you want to look after your partners who have been with the game for a long time.”

The deals would mark the end of a tumultuous negotiation, large parts of  which played out in the media. Only last week, Nine chief executive Hugh Marks said publicly that it was “not a given” that his channels would continue carrying rugby league, and the broadcaster would “have to be hard” during negotiations.