NRL's much hyped A$1bn broadcast deal unlikely to be realised

Louise Duffy ©RapidTVNews | 08-05-2012

In Australia it looks as though the much-hyped A$1bn broadcasting rights deal for the National Rugby League (NRL) is unlikely to materialise.

The existing rights holders Channel 9 and Foxtel had until the close of business yesterday to lodge fresh bids, following a three-month exclusivity period. However, industry insiders say the offers fall way short of the A$1bn mark.

The bidding process is set to be opened up to the market, with Channel 7 and Channel 10 believed to be interested. Foxtel is said to be considering a dedicated NRL channel as part of its fresh bid.

The reason for the lower than expected figures is disappointing figures in the AFL, the Courier Mail reports. Last year Channel 7, Foxtel and Telstra signed a A$1.25bn broadcasting deal that runs until 2016. However, there is a feeling in the television industry that the networks paid too much for the AFL rights, and are struggling to recoup their investments, with flagging subscription figures.
As part of the bid to make the game more valuable, the NRL approached Channel 9 about introducing mandatory ad breaks during games.
"The NRL have discussed various means of providing extra breaks but that's a matter entirely for the NRL," Channel 9 managing director Jeff Browne said.

"We will simply respond to what we think they can do while preserving the flow and integrity of the game."

If the NRL rejects the bid, as is likely, Nine and Fox Sports will come together to see if they can provide a joint agreement before the NRL goes to an open market.