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NRL pushing for more free-to-air coverage, and could add two teams

The Australian National Rugby League is pushing for a fourth weekly match to be shown on free-to-air television, and is considering expanding its competition by two teams, as it speaks to broadcasters about a new domestic media rights deal for the 2013 to 2017 period.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported that the Australian Rugby League Commission, the body which runs the NRL and which is negotiating the new deals, wants the fourth free-to-air match to be on Saturday nights. It also wants to have all free-to-air games simulcast on pay-television network Fox Sports. The Australian Football League, the Aussie rules championship, has similar coverage in its deal with the broadcaster.

The move to add two teams to the league would be staggered over two years.

The Herald said the new domestic rights deal is likely to be finalised in September, but is unlikely to generate the revenue secured by the AFL in its latest deal. The AFL struck a five-year deal worth A$1.25 billion (€1.02 billion/$1.28 billion) in April 2011. Industry insiders believe A$1 billion is a more realistic target for the NRL.

“The AFL has nine games a week to league’s eight, plus there is 30-per-cent more advertising time available in AFL games, so people are naive to think league can get as much as AFL,” an insider told the newspaper. “If they can get more than $1 billion, they will have done a damn fine job.”