Since last week’s AFL television
rights deal, I have been patiently waiting for an NRL club CEO to ask a
very simple and salient question: just how much better a deal has the
AFL got from Seven/Ten than the NRL got from Nine/Fox Sports?

Comparisons
between the two deals are not easy, as there are contra and promotional
components. But on the basis of what’s on the public record, the NRL
deal with Nine/Fox Sports is worth around $500 million for SIX years
(2007-2012), while we know with some certainty that the AFL deal has a
cash component of around $700 million for five years (2007-2011). It
could be argued that the NRL deal is actually for five years, as the
increased fee does not kick in until 2008.

So the AFL has managed to “extract” around $200 million more than the NRL – thanks to the late Kerry Packer.

Also,
thanks to Packer, it has extracted much better coverage in the
“non-AFL” states than the NRL was able to secure for the “non-NRL”
states. That would not be hard, as the NRL has secured but one
guarantee for Victoria – live coverage of the NRL grand final. Big deal.

The
argument that the AFL deserves more because it’s a national game does
not hold water. Rugby league remains the dominant game in NSW and
Queensland, which together have just over half the Australian
population.

What is beyond dispute is that rugby league has
been very good to Kerry Packer and Channel Nine. Seven of the ten top
rating programs in Brisbane last year were rugby league broadcasts, and
it wasn’t that much different in Sydney. And the AFL has rated very
poorly in Sydney, despite the success of the Swans.

History will
no doubt mark Kerry Packer as one of the shrewdest businessmen of our
time. In his dealings with rugby league he was very shrewd – right to
the very end.