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Rugby Australia takes ‘whole of rugby’ rights package to market

Rugby Australia has today (Friday) gone to market with its media-rights package for the 2021-2025 period and expects to conclude deals by mid-March.

In a first for the national federation, Rugby Australia has gone to market with an offering that includes content and competitions from every level of the sport in the country.

Rights on offer include national team matches, as well as a package of rights from Sanzaar, rugby union’s governing body in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, which includes the Super Rugby club competition and the Rugby Championship national team tournament.

The rights are currently held by Foxtel and there have been reports in Australia that the pay-television broadcaster is ready to end its longstanding coverage, although Raelene  Castle, the Rugby Australia chief executive, said earlier this week that she expects Foxtel to participate in the invitation to tender process.

Rugby Australia’s current five-year rights agreement with Foxtel runs from 2016 to 2020 and is worth a total of A$285m (€176.5m/$191.6m).

Non-disclosure agreements have today (Friday) been issued to interested parties and Castle said it has taken “several months” to construct a rights package that delivers complete coverage for broadcasters.

Castle added: “We have created alignment across our competitions which has enabled us to go to market with a rights package encompassing all levels of the game, with the aim of expanding the reach of our competitions and growing the audiences for the sport across each level of the game.

“We believe this strategy will lead to a significantly better outcome for fans, by providing them with enhanced coverage and greater access to elite competitions and allowing them to easily engage in rugby at all levels.

“Importantly, our initial conversations in the broadcast market have confirmed that there is real interest in a ‘whole of rugby’ package of content.”

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper has previously reported Foxtel, free-to-air commercial broadcasters Nine, Seven and Ten, digital platforms such as Amazon and telecoms operator Optus would be asked to sign non-disclosure agreements.

Fox Sports broadcast the inaugural Super 12 season in 1996 and has backed Australian rugby ever since but News Corp-owned newspaper The Australian recently reported that talks had “come to a halt”.