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NRL plays down concerns as Digital Network launches

The National Rugby League, the sport’s top division in Australia, has insisted its new digital venture will not cannibalise the rights and audiences of its existing media partners.

The NRL Digital Network launched today (Tuesday), featuring a new central league website, as well as sites and apps for its 16 teams.

The venture stems from the NRL’s decision to regain its digital rights from telecommunications company Telstra under the terms of its broadcast rights deals signed two years ago.

NRL Digital Network will have a heavy focus on video content. In 2018 there will be exclusive Inside Pass features and content available only to My NRL Account holders including extended highlights and full match replays.

However, Rebekah Horne, the NRL’s chief digital officer, has sought to play down concerns over the potential impact of the new platform on its media rights partners.

She told Australian newspaper the Financial Review: “We have excellent partnerships with our existing rights holders in Fox Sports, Telstra and Nine and there will be a promotion of their coverage. But we think this will also help with our direct engagement with our fans.”

Telstra retains streaming rights to the league and has developed a new NRL app in conjunction with the organisation. The NRL and Telstra will also share some commercial income, although Horne did not reveal the split.

Horne added that NRL Digital Network has been designed to make it easier for fans to buy memberships, tickets and merchandise, and for clubs to market themselves more effectively to existing and prospective fans. “The key is to increase the awareness of and the engagement in the sport,” she said.