Channel 9 and NRL kick off $925MN free-to-air deal


Fay Sutton

| 11 August 2015

Australia's Channel 9 has signed a deal with the National Rugby League (NRL) that will see four Telstra Premiership games shown live each week from 2018.

The broadcasting rights agreement is worth up to $925 million, making it the biggest deal in Australian free-to-air (FTA) television history, and also includes the rights to live stream the games on the Nine Network's digital platforms. Currently two live matches are broadcast each week.

NRL CEO Dave Smith said: "There will be more live and free Rugby League on television and that is what the fans want," adding that the agreement would also help secure the long-term financial future of the game.

"And we still have simulcast rights, pay-TV, New Zealand and international television rights to be negotiated, so the future of the game is in great shape."
The CEO of Nine Entertainment, David Gyngell, said Rugby League was part of Nine's DNA. "This is a transformational outcome for supporters, Rugby League and Nine," he said. "It will enable viewers to see the best of the NRL, live and free, four days a week anywhere and on any device."

The deal will also see a new schedule for the State of Origin, a three-match series contested each year between Queensland and New South Wales. The second match in each series will be played on a Sunday night as part of a standalone weekend of Rugby League, which will also feature Pacific Nation Tests.

Smith added that while the initial focus had been on free-to-air rights, the NRL had already held extensive discussions with a number of operators involved in pay-TV and streaming rights.

"The digital media market is changing rapidly and it is our view that new and exciting opportunities will develop with Fox Sports and other providers," he said.

"By 2018, the digital world will be very different and we want to be in the best possible position to take advantage of any changes. So negotiations with the pay-TV and digital providers will continue and, again, our focus will be on ensuring the most widespread coverage on whatever platform fans choose to watch Rugby League."