Peace breaks out as News Corp seals deal with NRL over pay TV broadcast rights

The NRL has exceeded its expectations with its new $1.85bn broadcast deal, regaining control of the game and brokering peace with News Corp.

nrl queensland cowboys win

The deal includes every game being broadcast live on Fox Sports, the launch of a 24 hour dedicated league channel, a new exclusive Friday night game for Fox Sports and the phasing out of Monday night games.

Executives from News Corp, Nine and the the Australian Rugby League Commission celebrated the deal over drinks last night following three days of intensive negotiations capped by the last minute involvement of News Corp CEO Robert Thompson.

However the finalisation of the deal was held up this morning as contracts were being ammended to deal with peripheral issues.

For the first time every NRL game will be broadcast live in a major concession and plans are already underway for a 24 hour league channel mirroring what Fox Sports does for the AFL.

Fox Sports will carry every game live in high definition and commercial free, including an exclusive Friday night game kicking off at 6pm and retaining its coverage of “Super Saturday” with three matches.

Games will now be broadcast from Thursday through until Monday.

While the new broadcast deal does not officially begin until 2018, the terms will be brought forward for the 2016 season.

Monday night games will be dropped from the schedule from 2017 when the 24 hour league channel is launched.

The signing of the deal brings to an end a tense period between the sport and News Corp after the NRL shocked News by moving early and brokering a broadcast deal directly with Nine.

News Corp papers then moved to try and push down the value of the remaining rights reporting that the code would struggled to even as much as $1.7bn for the rights package.

Relations were stretched further with Rupert Murdoch declaring the rival AFL was Australia’s “premium code”.

Finding a way through the impasse was crucial for News Corp to to maintain relevance in the rugby league heartlands of New South Wales and Queensland, an element the NRL used to its advantage.

One source close to the negotiations said of the deal: “peace has broken out”.

“We have got control of the game and the schedule back.”

While the deal is a win for Fox Sport and News Corp, the NRL is the biggest winner, managing to achieve the broadest possible platform for the code.

News Corp will pay Nine $35 million per year for the Saturday game in a move that will be welcomed by Nine Entertainment Corporation shareholders.

The entry of Optus as a possible bidder for the broadcast rights is believed to have focused minds at News Corp and Fox Sports and helped to

Earlier this month Optus shocked the market, gazumping Fox Sports by securing the broadcast and digital rights to the English Premier League.

While Fox Sports insiders played down the loss of the sport, the move placed a new level of pressure on the broadcaster to secure a deal with Nine and the NRL for rugby league rights.

Simon Canning

Update: News Corp, Nine Entertainment Company, the NRL and Telstra have all confirmed the new broadcast arrangements at a press conference this afternoon.

News Corps Statement:

News Corp Australia, in conjunction with its subsidiary FOX SPORTS Australia, today announced that it has secured a five year deal with the National Rugby League for seasons 2018-2022.

The deal brings together News, Nine Entertainment and Telstra to deliver $1.8billion to the NRL, securing the game’s future for the long term.

In 2016 FOX SPORTS will show every game of every round live, ad-free, in high definition, including exclusive broadcasts of three Super Saturday games, a Sunday afternoon game and Monday Night Football.

In 2017 FOX SPORTS will launch a dedicated new NRL channel, which will feature every game of every round, the most comprehensive news coverage, the best commentary and analysis from the game’s biggest names, along with a new exclusive Friday night game at 6pm, Super Saturday and a Sunday afternoon game.

Subscribers to the FOX SPORTS package will have access to all these services on televisions, tablets and smart phones.

News Corp Australia chief executive Peter Tonagh said “This is a truly outstanding deal that will, for the first time in the history of the game, give fans live coverage of every game each round. It’s a big win for the fans, and a big win for the clubs, and News is delighted to be a part of it.

“The deal affirms FOX SPORTS as the home of NRL, and the premium destination for sports coverage in Australia. Patrick Delany and his team will deliver fans of every club an experience like no other.

“I would like to thank the NRL, Nine Entertainment and Telstra for coming together to deliver such a terrific outcome for everyone.”

Nine Entertainment Company statement:


Nine Entertainment Co. (ASX:NEC) has executed variations to its agreements with the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) for the 2016 to 2022 seasons.

For the 2016 and 2017 seasons, NEC has agreed to permit Fox Sports to simulcast matches (other than the State of Origin and the Grand Final), in return for a payment of $20 million per annum.  NEC and Fox Sports have also agreed with the ARLC to move the delayed Friday night game to a live Thursday night slot (for 18 weeks in 2016 and 23 weeks in 2017), allowing Nine to show more matches live and in prime time.  In 2017, Nine will also show a Saturday night match live, in the last 5 rounds of the weekly competition.

For the 2018 to 2022 seasons, Fox Sports will simulcast Nine’s matches (other than the State of Origin and the Grand Final) and NEC has given rights back to the ARLC in respect of the Saturday night match (which will be licensed to Fox Sports).  As in 2017, the Saturday night match in the last 5 rounds of the weekly competition will be shown by both NEC and Fox Sports.  NEC’s average cost over the 2018 to 2022 rights period will now be $125 million per annum, inclusive of contra, down from the previously announced $185 million per annum.

Under this revised agreement, live broadcast of NRL (inclusive of pre and post match commentary) on Free-To-Air TV will increase from approximately 150 hours in CY15 to approximately 240 hours from CY18.

Hugh Marks, CEO of NEC, said “This is an outstanding result for the game with more live and free coverage for NRL fans from 2016. For Nine, it clearly represents an enhanced outcome for our shareholders and enables us to participate in a strong media partnership delivering quality NRL coverage for the game, the clubs and the broader NRL community for the next 7 years.”



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