The Australian Rugby League Commission has today announced that the broadcasting rights for Rugby League in Australia have been retained by Channel 9 and Fox Sports Australia.
The deal will run over five years and is worth $1.025 billion dollars. $100 million dollars of that is advertising on Channel 9 and Fox Sports. This deal does not include television rights for the game in New Zealand or the online rights. This means that once those deals are negotiated this deal, in financial terms, is a very lucrative one.
Channel 9 will continue to show two games on a Friday night and a delayed game on a Sunday afternoon. Fox Sports meanwhile will show fie live games every weekend.
Some of the key features of the deal include:
Free To Air TV
*Current format of two Friday night games (Second delayed) and delayed Sunday afternoon game to be retained.
*Three Thursday night games to be shown on Channel 9 during the course of the season.
*The NRL Grand Final to move to a 7:15pm kickoff.
*State Of Origin games locked in on Wednesday nights for the full contract.
*The Grand Final and State Of Origin to be shown in HD from 2014.
*Rugby League games to be shown on Fox Sports channels. No dedicated Rugby League channel
*Fox Sports will introduce Sunday Night football for 13 rounds of the season.
*Monday night football to be retained by Fox Sports.
*Fox Sports to show online games to subscribers to its service via online applications.
*Channel 9 and News Limited game away their first and last rights when signing this deal. This is very important. It means that looking towards the next broadcasting deal after this one, the ARL will not have its hands tied by commitments to any broadcaster.
*This deal was described as “revenue positive” by Channel 9. This means that unlike the AFL deal which loses its broadcasters money, Channel 9 and Fox Sports will make money from this deal.
*Expansion is not on the agenda. John Grant said “Not a lot of value in a 9th game” in terms of broadcasters paying more for that extra game.
*The first 20 rounds of the season will be locked in with the remainder of the schedule released during round 16.
*Channel 9 games will not be simulcast on Fox Sports as is the case with the AFL deal.
What Does This All Mean?
Basically from a viewers point of view, we will get what we are getting right now. It is not ideal by any stretch of the imagination.
Expect more Brisbane Broncos games on Friday night because quite simply, they give Channel 9 the best ratings in its Brisbane market during that time slot and that is what they paid for.
The positive thing from this deal is that it is worth a lot of money. In pure dollar terms, this is actually a very good deal. Yes the game has had to make some compromises, but now it is making those compromises in exchange for extra money, and that isn’t what has been happening in the past.
From my point of view the disappointing thing is the lack of news on expansion.
Because Channel 9 only has limited stations that it owns, it has interest at all in expansion teams in different areas. As far as they are concerned, the game gives them what they want in its current state.
For Fox Sports, they would look at the time slots they want to fill and how expansion clubs for fill those slots. In this deal, they have simply filled those extra slots with no need for a 9th game to be played per round, so they too have no need for the competition to expand.
I personally believe this is where the Australia Rugby League Commission needs a shift in its mindset. The business side is done, we have a budget for the game going forward and we know how much money the game will have. Now they have to start looking at making the best decisions for the health of the game itself.
Looking towards the next television deal, the game needs to be in a better position than it is now, offering more to broadcasters while making sure it remains a sustainable business at the same time.
I think in pure football terms, Perth must become part of the National Rugby League. They are already producing NRL talent while NRL clubs are scouting the WARL competition for junior players who are filtering through the NRL’s Under 20’s ranks.
The addition of Perth is perfect for the Sunday Night time slot, but where else could the NRL look to add sustainable value to the competition looking towards 2019?
I think with the amount of money the New Zealand television bring into the game, and with the incredible amount of talent coming from the current World Champions, it is time to look towards establishing a second New Zealand based NRL club that is funded through Sky NZ broadcasting money.
If in 2019 the game is offering an 18 team competition with two teams in New Zealand and one team in Perth, you now have a lot of options in terms of time slots on offer while also expanding the game into areas it really needs to be in. It also gives the NRL a very good platform to build on looking towards the long term future.
At the end of the day, Rugby League has been under funded for well over a decade. What this deal allows the game to do is keep the game sustainable, but now also gives it the luxury to spend money in areas that have been neglected for far too long.
In terms of the viewer, sure its not idea, but at least now the compromises the game is making are translating into money in the bank. With that in mind, I can cop watching the Broncos every Sunday night and delayed games on Channel 9.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com