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Seven rejects talk of NRL rights bid

Australian free-to-air commercial broadcaster Seven has rejected reports it will seek to bid for rights to domestic rugby league competition the NRL.

The reports followed last week’s announcement by Seven’s 7News division that it will enhance its coverage of the NRL’s 2020 season, which kicked off at the weekend.

Seven currently does not have live rights to the NRL, with the broadcaster instead a major rights-holder of Aussie rules football league the AFL.

Rights to the NRL were acquired in November 2015 by pay-television broadcaster Fox Sports and telco Telstra under a five-year contract running from 2018 to 2022. In August 2015, commercial broadcaster Nine retained domestic free-to-air rights for the NRL in a deal worth A$185m (€101.8m/$114.3m) per season over the five-year cycle.

Concerning the reports over an NRL rights bid, Seven West Media’s chief executive and managing director, James Warburton, said: “The report in the Sunday Telegraph was ridiculous considering both the AFL and NRL are only halfway through their current terms. Seven has the AFL until the end of 2022 which is performing brilliantly.”

In August 2015, the Australian Football League awarded its next cycle of domestic rights to Seven, pay-television operator Foxtel and Telstra. The rights cover six seasons, from 2017 to 2022, and are worth a total of A$2.51bn, or A$418m per year.

This is a 67-per-cent increase on the previous five-year cycle, from 2012 to 2016, which was worth A$250m per year.

Regarding 7News’ enhanced NRL coverage, Warburton added: “It simply shows the strength of 7News and why we are number one, that we have assembled such a comprehensive NRL team here at Seven to bring you the insight into the NRL competition.”