In what would seem to be a significant victory for the National Rugby League, the dispute between Telstra and News over “new media” rights for rugby league has been settled.

As a result, a cool $8 million has been transferred overnight from Telstra to the NRL as part of its naming rights sponsorship and “new media” rights agreements.

It appears Telstra and News have arrived at a compromise that will allow a limited broadcast of footage of NRL matches on News related websites – such as Fox Sports – and on mobile phones.

Telstra alleged Fox Sports had been broadcasting several minutes of game footage on its website and on selling the packages to Telstra’s communications rivals, Vodafone and Hutchison.

While it appears that the deal is a compromise – driven by the NRL CEO David Gallop who desperately needed the Telstra sponsorship funds – it is interesting that it has been covered in the Sydney Morning Herald today… yet it does not appear to have made at least the early editions of News Limited publications!

The compromise is probably more in Telstra’s favour, given that it imposes strict limits on the streamlining of game footage – a maximum of 105 seconds of each match on the Fox Sports website and 90 seconds on mobile phones.

But it will also come as some relief to News, which own 50 per cent of the NRL and would have to contribute to a bail out of the finances of the NRL had the court cases over the issue dragged on.

And the agreement is just in time for the start of the State of Origin series – the highest rating of all NRL programs. Time will tell whether the agreement also leads to a improvement in relations between the partners in Foxtel – Telstra, News and PBL.

But in the short term it averts a cash crisis for the NRL, and enhances the credibility of the NRL CEO, David Gallop, whose personal intervention last week brought the warring parties (and partners) together.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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