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NRL confirms rights partners for new cycle

Rights for the National Rugby League, the top division of rugby league in Australia, have been acquired in the country by pay-television broadcaster Fox Sports and the Telstra telecommunications company.

The deals will run for five years, from 2018 to 2022.

In August, Nine retained domestic free-to-air rights for the NRL in a deal worth A$185m (€133m/$141m) per season over the five-year cycle.

The new deals with Fox Sports and Telstra have pushed the overall value of the cycle to $1.8bn – a 70-per-cent increase on the current cycle with the same partners.

Under the agreements, many of the changes will be implemented from the 2016 campaign – two years early – with Premiership matches being held from Thursday to Monday inclusive before reverting to four days per week, from Thursday to Sunday, in 2017.

Fox Sports will show all eight games every weekend, including five on an exclusive basis – three of which will take place on Saturdays – and from 2017, Fox Sports will run a dedicated rugby league channel to exploit the rights.

Nine will broadcast games live and free to air on Thursday and Friday nights and on Sunday afternoons in 2016.

The last five Saturday night games of each season will be broadcast on free-to-air television in the build-up to the finals series.

Telstra will remain the naming rights partner of the NRL and will show the league on mobile devices as well as replays and highlights via its new Telstra TV digital platform from 2016.

John Grant (pictured), the chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission, which brokered the deals, said: “Compared to our current schedule, this result still means more games live and free for our fans and gives grass roots and elite clubs and organisations immense financial benefits. The ARL Commission has been working on a revised schedule to incorporate the 18 Thursday night games in 2016 in conjunction with the television rights negotiations without increasing the number of five-day turn-arounds for players.”


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