Nine and Stan launch Stan Sport with Rugby Australia deal

Rugby Union will be broadcast on Nine’s new digital sports channel in 2021 via its streaming platform Stan, after the broadcaster announced a contract with Rugby Australia.

The first rights deal for the new channel, Stan Sport, is worth $100 million in cash and contra, with the partnership to kick off in 2021.

Wallabies matches will be broadcast on Nine

The three-year-deal, which has been agreed between Nine and Rugby Australia pending SANZAAR sign-off, will see Stan Sport offered as a bundle to Stan streaming customers as a live and on-demand premium sports package. SANZAAR is the body which oversees Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship competitions in Rugby Union.

The deal will see international matches including Wallabies Tests and the Rugby Championship, Super Rugby, Sydney-based competition the Shute Shield and Queensland comp the Hospital Cup, the Mitre 10 and Currie Cup, plus SANZAAR Union home games, all broadcast live and ad-free on Stan.

Nine will also broadcast Wallabies Test Matches played locally and in New Zealand, as well as a selection of Super Rugby games, on its free-to-air television channel.

A library of classic games and greatest moments from history will also be available to relive on Stan. Current membership tiers for the service range between $10 and $19 per month.

In addition to rugby, Nine is looking at opportunities to invest in a range of additional exclusive sports rights.

Stan CEO Mike Sneesby said the partnership signals “a new era” in Australian sports television.

“Rugby Australia is making bold moves in the development of the sport – something that fits perfectly with what we do at Stan,” he said.

“This partnership with Rugby Australia will see Stan launch its live streaming capability in 2021, as we take Australian sports television into a new era. Through the combined audience reach and engagement across Nine’s television platforms, we are well positioned to bring Rugby Union to more Australians than ever before.”

The deal between Nine and Rugby Australia ends a 25-year association between the sport and News Corp, which broadcasts matches via its Fox Sports platform.

News Corp-owned masthead The Australian confirmed that the association between Fox and Rugby Union had come to an end over the weekend, citing recent TV viewing numbers from last season as one of the reasons why Fox Sports had been “lukewarm” about continuing to pay for the rights.

Rugby Australia took its broadcast rights to the market at the start of 2020, the first time doing so since 1996. In March, the broadcast rights discussion was temporarily suspended due to COVID-19.

Rugby Australia was then forced to negotiate a single-season deal with Fox Sports which was worth a reported $15 million less than the original deal offered by Foxtel in November of 2019.

A tough year for the sport was made tougher last month when primary sponsor Qantas announced it was “no longer in a position” to continue its 30-year partnership.

Stan CEO Mike Sneesby

Nine CEO Hugh Marks said the deal will offer up a range of new programming opportunities.

“The launch of Stan Sport is a bold expansion for Mike Sneesby and the team at Stan, to sit alongside our hugely successful Stan entertainment offering,” he said.

“At Stan, we are focused on bringing Australians the best local, international and original programming, which has seen our audience reach significant scale.

“Today’s announcement will see us extend that offering through the launch of our live streaming capability, bringing live sport to Stan in 2021 and opening up a range of new programming opportunities. Our partnership with Rugby Australia is the perfect place to start this new business.”

Rugby Australia interim chief executive, Rob Clarke, said the deal sees a fantasy become reality for the Australian rugby community.

“Rugby Australia is very excited about our new partnership with Nine Entertainment Co. and what’s in store for our great game over the next three years and beyond,” he said.

“Rugby has found its new home on Stan and the Nine Network, with broad reach on free-to-air as well as ad-free, extensive access on the Stan platform.

“The fantasy has become a reality for the Australian Rugby community.

“This is a landmark deal that includes everything in the showbag, and it gives more Australians more access to more rugby than ever before. Australian Rugby is transforming with an exciting future ahead, and this innovative deal enables us to fast-track that growth from the bottom-up.”

Nunn Media managing director, Chris Walton, told Mumbrella deal may not be good for rugby, which has struggled for viewers and crowds in recent years.

“I will be interested to see the model they are proposing for Stan Sports,” he told Mumbrella.

“And also what their plans are for other sports to come on board, as rugby union on its own won’t be enough. And in its current state it won’t be good for the future health of rugby as a sport either.

“Rugby needs exposure on a mass scale to survive and thrive so I will be keen to understand what commitments may have been made on exposure.”

But Clarke said he saw the deal as a sign that rugby is changing with the Australian broadcast landscape, and said Stan’s two million plus subscribers will help the sport grow.

“We’re thrilled to partner with streaming service Stan,” he said. “Nine and Stan have also made a commitment to our women’s game, both at a domestic and international level.

“Rugby Australia is passionate about the growth of the women’s game in Australia and we look forward to working closely with them to showcase our competitions and talented players as well as encouraging more women and girls to pick up a rugby ball.”


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