Rugby Australia CEO still expects Foxtel to bid on broadcast rights, despite fractured relationship

The tender process for Rugby Australia’s broadcast rights is continuing to twist and turn, with the sporting body’s boss Raelene Castle saying she still expects Foxtel to bid for the rights, despite rumours the subscription TV business is ready to walk away from the negotiations.

The partnership between Rugby Australia and Foxtel broke down earlier this month when an initial bid by long-term broadcast partner Fox Sports was rejected by Rugby Australia.

Castle is still convinced Foxtel will bid for the Rugby Australia broadcast rights, despite negotiations breaking down earlier this month

Head of Fox Sports, Peter Campbell, refused to comment on the negotiations, only saying that it was “a matter for Rugby Australia”. That comment came after months of negotiations had reportedly broken down between the two businesses. Fox Sports has had the rugby rights since 1996.

In 2015, the pair signed a $285m deal, to expire in 2020.

Rugby Australia is now almost ready to take its package to market, offering up the rights between 2021 and 2026, the first time they have been taken to market since 1996.

Initial reporting indicates that Optus will make a strong case for the rights to bolster its existing sports offering.

Rugby’s is reporting Castle is hoping for a mixed-rights deal which will see the sport gain a bigger presence on free-to-air TV (FTA). The rights will also include the Shute Shield, currently held by Club Rugby TV with broadcast partner Seven.

“We went through a negotiating process with them [Fox Sports] through their exclusive negotiating period,” Castle said.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t get to a place we were both comfortable with. So now we’re in tender and we would expect that as a market process they would step into that process.”

She went on to say the new, stronger, package has attracted “real interest from the market” and that tender documents would be out by the end of the week. A month-long process will follow.

The three commercial networks, Optus, Foxtel and other digital companies, including Amazon, are expected to be part of the bidding process. The package includes the Super Rugby, Wallabies Tests and club matches.


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