Nine acquires NRL rights for $925m

Nine spends $925m on new NRL rights: Four lives games, keeps State of Origin

Nine and the NRL have signed a deal for FTA TV and digital streaming rights that covers four games each week. Nine pays $185m a year including contra air time for live games on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night plus Sunday afternoon.

Nine keeps the State of Origin with game two each year moving to a Sunday night.

Nine released this statement this morning:

Nine Entertainment Co has executed an agreement for premium National Rugby League (NRL) rights for the 2018 to 2022 seasons.

Under this agreement, NEC has acquired the exclusive FTA rights to broadcast four premium live games a week on each of Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons, as well as the finals series, State of Origin, and other special event matches.

NEC has also acquired all free streaming rights for these games. The National Rugby League may elect to grant the pay simulcast rights for certain games, but otherwise the live distribution of these games across any free visual media is exclusive to NEC.

NEC’s average cost over the new rights period amounts to $185m per annum, inclusive of contra, which will be reduced if the NRL elects to grant pay simulcast rights for certain games.

Rugby League fans will enjoy a vastly improved experience – four premium live games each week, more than doubling live coverage to over 270 hours per season, all of which will be available free across Nine’s free-to-air television and digital media.

David Gyngell, CEO of NEC, said: “Rugby League is part of Nine’s DNA. This is a transformational outcome for supporters, Rugby League and Nine, enabling viewers to see the best of the NRL, live and free, four days per week, anywhere, on any device. As the audience for television fragments, the value and marketing power of free, live premium sport across multiple media cannot be underestimated.”

A statement from the NRL added:

Rugby League fans will be able to watch four live matches each week on free to air television from 2018 as part of a new broadcast rights agreement reached with the Nine Network today.

NRL CEO Dave Smith said Channel 9 has secured the rights to screen matches on Thursday, Friday and Saturday during prime time and on Sunday at 4 pm.

The deal, the biggest in Australian FTA television history, is worth up to $925 million and will take effect from 2018.

Smith said the number of live games shown on free to air television would increase from two at present to four, and 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.”

Smith said that, as part of the agreement, the NRL would regain control of the season schedule – and deliver a better deal for the fans.

“We will be able to schedule the best games when fans want to see them – and ensure all clubs receive the coverage they deserve on free to air television,” he said.

Other highlights of the agreement include:
•  The NRL Telstra Premiership will be played over 25 weeks instead of 26
•  A new State of Origin schedule with the second match in each series being played on a Sunday night as part of a stand alone weekend of representative football which will also feature Pacific Nation Tests
•  International Rugby League will be given a new priority and will be played in a dedicated window after the NRL Premiership season.

Smith said the changes would mean less disruption to the Telstra Premiership with only one split round each year.

“In other words, we are preserving Origin as a marquee event of the year while minimising disruption to the Premiership,” he said.

“This will not only improve player welfare but it will be fairer for the clubs and fans.”

Smith said 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 television 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.”

Source: Nine Network/NRL

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