At just after 11.30am Nine CEO David Gyngell joined Australian Rugby League Commission negotiating chairman John Grant to announce Nine and Foxtel had again won the rights for the next five years to broadcast the NRL (including the State of Origin) for a total of $1.025 billion.

From a purely commercial standpoint the amount is a huge boon for the NRL; the figure doesn’t include the yet-to-be negotiated rights for the New Zealand broadcasting part of the deal nor the lucrative mobile and internet rights. The existing $1.025 billion includes $925 million cash (of which $90 million is to be paid prior to the first season) and $100 million in advertising.

But what about the fans? The most startling aspect of this deal is that, unlike its fierce rival and commercial competitor the AFL, not every NRL game will be broadcast live. Only one game will be live on Nine each round. For diehard supporters of NRL this is incomprehensible as they look to the calendar and see the year is, after all, 2012. There is also no high definition broadcasting (except for Origin and the Grand Final in 2014). But NRL is a TV game — the most watched sport on the box in Australia — and the NRL’s broadcast partners are protecting their investment.

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Two Friday night games remain, including one that must features a Queensland team — to the chagrin of non-Brisbane Broncos supporters as the Queensland powerhouse is often featured in this prime spot due to its incredible popularity and, hence, undeniable ratings pull. Also, for the next five years the NRL Grand final will be a night grand final with a 7.15pm kick off — a key TV spot less preferred by the traditionalist compared to a Sunday afternoon. The new broadcast deal also sees the introduction of 13 Sunday night games which again are less enjoyed by fans compared to television executives.

As for the split between Nine and Foxtel, Nine will broadcast three weekly matches (two on Friday and one on Sunday) and Foxtel five weekly matches across Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

There were some wins however for the fans as the NRL will introduce a scheduled fixture (until round 20) and the last six rounds to be fixed by round 16. Importantly, for those unhappy with this deal, Nine, News and Fox have agreed to forgo conditions on future rights deals which means the next negotiations will be an open tender.

Other details include:

  • Nine to broadcast three Thursday evening matches over the course of the season.
  • A stand-alone Test and City v Country weekend will be broadcast on Nine.
  • State of Origin matches to be broadcast on nine and on Wednesdays.
  • Nine to broadcast the Roosters v Dragons Anzac Day match.
  • Foxtel to broadcast the Storm v Warriors Anzac Day match (other than in 2014)
  • Rugby League content on digital Channel 94.
  • The Queensland In Trust Super Cup broadcast on Nine.
  • Foxtel to show three non NRL matches each week (in conjunction with the Telstra Premiership game) which will be between Toyota Cup, NSW Cup and GIO Schoolboys Cup.
  • Nine and Fox Sports will provide coverage of The Four Nations Tournament.

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Australia has spoken. We want more from the people in power and deserve a media that keeps them on their toes. And thank you, because it’s been made abundantly clear that at Crikey we’re on the right track.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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