Ten ‘seeks to cut fee’ with Rugby Australia rights bid

Commercial free-to-air broadcaster Ten has made an offer to renew its rights deal with Rugby Australia, the national governing body, but is said to be seeking a reduction in its fee.

Rugby Australia’s current five-year rights agreement, which was signed in 2015 with pay-television operator Foxtel, runs from 2016 to 2020 and is worth a total of A$285m (€172.4m/$200.8m).

Foxtel sublicenses one delayed Super Rugby match per week to Ten, while Ten simulcasts all of Australia’s domestic tests, the Bledisloe Cup and all Australia matches in The Rugby Championship.

Ten pays around A$3.5m per year for its free-to-air rights, but is said to be wanting a cheaper deal to renew, with the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper stating this could entail an annual reduction of A$1m. Industry sources told the newspaper that Ten lodged the bid late last week, offering to broadcast the Wallabies matches on its network again but for a lower price.

The current rights agreement expires on December 31 and Rugby Australia last month set a deadline of September 4 for broadcasters to return submissions to a tender.

International tests played in Australia and New Zealand and all of Australia’s matches in the Rugby World Cup must be broadcast on free-to-air television under the country’s anti-siphoning laws. It is reported that the length of Ten’s new deal is open to discussion, as is the potential to secure rights to new game formats.

Rugby Australia last month unveiled what it claimed was the largest and most comprehensive collection of rugby rights ever assembled, with prospective broadcasters having received documentation to begin the next phase of the negotiation process.

The tender includes a variety of options for broadcasters or the opportunity to own rights to the entire package. Included amongst the inventory are the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup for the Australian men’s national team, and international Tests for the women’s national team.

A ‘State of Union’ competition between New South Wales and Queensland, with players to play for their state of birth or where they played their club rugby, is included alongside a domestic Super Rugby competition including five Australian teams, or, a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition that includes five Australian teams.

The tender also laid out the potential for a four-week Super Eight competition, to be played at the conclusion of the respective domestic Super Rugby competitions, as a cross-over championship between the top two teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa as well as one team from Japan and South America.

Ten is said to be the only free-to-air broadcaster to have put in a bid so far, with Seven opting against an offer and Nine said to be closely watching the negotiation process. Foxtel remains in talks to renew, but has not entered a formal bid. Internet giant Amazon is also said to be interested in the rights.

Telecoms operator Optus was previously said to have been the favourite for the rights, but did not state a formal interest when the revised tender was released last month.