Australian telco Telstra is set to lose its National Rugby League mobile rights after the current cycle ends in 2022, as the league looks to preserve greater exclusivity for its television partners.
Telstra acquired NRL mobile rights in the current cycle, 2018 to 2022, in a sublicensing deal with pay-television broadcaster Foxtel. The Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday that the NRL has blocked Foxtel from sublicensing the rights in the next cycle, under a new deal agreed last week covering 2023 to 2027.
The NRL last week renegotiated and extended its current deal with Foxtel, and renegotiated its current deal with free-to-air broadcaster Nine. The renegotiations took place as part of talks between the three parties to arrange the restart of the 2020 NRL season after the Covid-19 shutdown. Nine secured a significant reduction in its rights fees for the three remaining years of its current deal, 2020 to 2022. Foxtel is also thought to have secured a reduction in its rights fees.
Telstra had rights to stream live coverage of all NRL matches, including the Grand Final and the State of Origin matches, on mobile and tablet devices with screens with a maximum size of seven inches. Access to the coverage was included for no extra charge in subscriptions to Telstra’s mobile network services. Telstra mobile subscribers were also able to stream the NRL coverage over the company’s network with no data costs.
Telstra has similar rights and customer offers for the Australian Football League, the AFLW women’s league, the football A-League, and Australia’s Super Netball league.
The telco has a 35-per-cent stake in Foxtel.
The Sydney Morning Herald report said the NRL was holding back the mobile rights primarily to boost the exclusive rights it could offer to free-to-air partner Nine in upcoming renewal talks. The league is said to be keen to secure a five-year extension with Nine for 2023-27. Nine could potentially use the mobile rights for its streaming app, 9Now.
A Telstra spokesperson told the Herald and The Age newspaper, “We are…disappointed to learn the NRL, through their agreement with Foxtel, has decided not to make those digital rights on mobile available beyond 2022…We have not been a party to those discussions and will obviously need to engage with the NRL to understand what the implications are for our partnership in the long term.”
Telstra is also the naming rights sponsor of the NRL in a deal running to 2022.
The full details of Foxtel’s extension for 2023-27 have not been unveiled, but its known that, as it did in the current cycle, the NRL has held back for free-to-air television exclusive rights to the Grand Final and State of Origin games.