What Rugby Australia is weighing up in broadcast talks

Industry sources familiar with the discussions previously said Nine, owners of this masthead, is offering $30 million in cash and free advertising to broadcast one Super Rugby match a week on free-to-air television as well as Wallabies Tests and the Rugby Championship. All other Super Rugby games would be broadcast live behind a paywall on subscription streaming service Stan.

Foxtel also bid for Super Rugby, Wallabies Tests and the Rugby Championship. Industry sources familiar with the talks said Foxtel had offered between $35 million-$40 million but some Foxtel sources have since indicated they offered less than $35 million.

Former Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle, who was eager to get more free-to-air coverage for the sport to grow its audience, said in January that any deal was not just about price.

“The number is obviously crucial and that’s how all sports survive in the professional era,” Castle said at the time. “The second thing is access, so how can we expose Super Rugby more readily to more people more often. Thirdly … the commercial support across the whole sport that the broadcasters are prepared to engage in.”

RA has struggled to grow the game due to a lack of exposure and poor recent performances by the Wallabies. All Super Rugby games are broadcast on Foxtel and subscription streaming service Kayo, making it difficult for the governing body to reach new fans.

Global Media and Sports boss Colin Smith said rugby union risks eroding its audiences if it cannot get more people attending matches through a new broadcast deal.

‘The only problem with more of the same [is it’s] going to continue the downward trajectory.’

Global Media and Sports boss Colin Smith

“The only problem with more of the same [is it’s] going to continue the downward trajectory,” Smith said. “Back in 2004, the average audience for Super Rugby was probably six or seven times greater than it is today. You can’t just bank your dollars because if you bank your dollars and don’t make major changes, then it could continue to erode. Rugby has to recreate itself and build a long-term position.”

Bould said one concern for the RA Board to change partners could be the ramifications of walking away from Foxtel. Foxtel’s major shareholder, News Corp Australia, owns mastheads such as The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun. Bould said sports have historically been reluctant to walk from Foxtel because it risks walking away from coverage that appears in the mastheads.

“There’s a very powerful channel to market that News Corp offers,” he said. However, he argued reach would also help RA increase its revenue in the long term.

“Having the content in front of as many people as possible is going to become even more important,” he said. “They’re going to need to maximise sponsorship dollars and they’re going to need to maximise what the fans are paying whether that be for memberships or whether they buy shirts.”

But any deal won’t just have implications for rugby union. The potential introduction of Nine’s sports streaming service Stan to live sports broadcasting could have long-term implications for future rights negotiations. Traditionally, Foxtel was the only major pay-TV operator that could offer a subscription-focused model for sport. Optus has since entered the sports broadcasting space and the inclusion of Stan would increase competition.


“It adds more competitive tension because, all of a sudden, it’s saying that subscription doesn’t doesn’t necessarily have to be driven by the telcos or by Foxtel,” Smith said. “It’s a really material change for Stan and frankly for Nine that, all of a sudden, changes the competitive dynamics of Australian sport and frankly international sport.”

Media analyst Brian Han said any content that can differentiate Stan, subject to the amount paid for it, would increase its value. “A niche sports content such as rugby would fit that bill, not to mention the cross-promotional benefits and AB-demo exposure Stan would get, if key matches are also broadcast on Nine free-to-air,” he said.

“As for what it means for future sports rights negotiations, it’s unlikely any free-to-air network would ever consider paying for any sports rights if the digital/streaming rights are not included.”

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Nine offers $30 million for rugby union broadcast rights

Former RA boss Raelene Castle was eager to get more free-to-air coverage for the sport to grow the sport’s audience. Nine’s offer is smaller than the bid incumbent broadcaster Foxtel made nearly two weeks ago. Industry sources familiar with the talks previously aid Foxtel had offered between $35-$40 million for the matches despite previous claims the pay TV operator did not believe the sport was worth that much. However, some Foxtel sources indicated they offered less than $35 million. Foxtel pays between $30 million to $40 million a year for the rights but was hoping to renegotiate price in the same way it landed new deals with the AFL and NRL.


Foxtel has broadcast rugby games in Australia for two decades. The broadcaster, which runs Fox Sports, offered to sign a new five-year deal late last year but discussions fell apart earlier this year over the pricing. Foxtel has also reduced its rugby commentary budget in recent years and no longer has a mid-week show.

When talks first fell apart between RA and Foxtel earlier this year, Ms Castle approached Nine about a bid. A successful bid by Nine would also change the positioning of streaming service Stan, which currently runs international and local drama and film. Stan currently has 2 million subscribers, a large audience base for rugby union to try and attract. Kayo had 600,000 subscribers in September.

Any deal with the Nine would be short-term but if the involvement of Stan proves a success, it could open up the potential for other sports rights negotiations to include the streaming service in future. Such a move would put pressure on Foxtel which is heavily dependent on sport for subscribers.

Nine is the second free-to-air broadcaster to make an offer for the rights. Network Ten bid broadcast the Wallabies Tests last month but offered less than the $3.5 million a year it currently pays. Ten does not want to pay large amounts for the rights because of declining audiences. In 2015, the average audience for international Tests on Network Ten was about 345,000. In 2019 the audience figure was 194,000 and a lack of audience often results in less appeal for advertisers.

Network Ten’s chief sales officer Rod Prosser said last week low-rating sport was of no benefit to the broadcaster. “Sport obviously attract advertisers, and particularly blue chip advertisers in droves. What our clients are mostly in now is the audience [a sport] delivers. Having a low rating sport, just for the sake of sport, is of no benefit to me.”

One caveat on the value of the rights will be whether South Africa continues to participate in the Rugby Championship next year. South Africa confirmed last week it would not play in this year’s tournament but rugby sources have indicated it is considering playing in a Northern Hemisphere competition next year. The Rugby Championship is a highly lucrative competition for the governing body and the absence of South Africa will reduce its value. Interim RA boss Rob Clarke said late last week he was confident that the Springboks would not exit the Rugby Championship for good from next year.

Foxtel, Ten and BSkyB are at the end of a $285m five-year deal with RA signed in 2015. Securing a new deal is crucial for the financial security of the code (a large amount of RA’s revenue comes from broadcasters).

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Premier League: Games not selected for broadcast in October will be available to fans on a pay-per-view basis

Premier League football has been played behind closed doors since the competition resumed in June

Premier League games not selected for broadcast in October will be available to fans on a pay-per-view basis.

The five fixtures per round not already picked to be shown live, will be available on BT Sport Box Office or Sky Sports Box Office, priced at £14.95.

Clubs have agreed this “interim solution” to allow fans to continue watching their teams live.

Premier League clubs voted 19-1 in favour of the move, with Leicester City the only one to vote against it.

The Premier League said it and its clubs “remain committed to the safe return of fans as soon as possible”.

Fans have been unable to attend Premier League games since football was halted on 13 March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The top flight resumed on Wednesday, 17 June with the remaining 92 games of last season being played behind closed doors and the opening games of this season have followed suit.

The Premier League and UK government had hoped to bring fans back into stadiums from 1 October but those plans were scrapped following an increase in coronavirus cases.

BT Sport said fans without a subscription would still be able to access their Box Office service.

“With supporters still unable to return to stadiums, we want to help fans watch the games they would usually attend and clubs generate critical revenue,” the broadcaster said.

Former Manchester United and England right-back Gary Neville, now a television pundit, said on social media it was a “really bad move” by the Premier League.

In a statement, the Football Supporters’ Association urged broadcasters to “reconsider their pricing”.

“Today’s announcement shows that fan power works,” the FSA said. “At the start of this season the Premier League and its broadcasters had planned to leave match-going fans entirely locked out of their side’s matches; now thanks to the sustained pressure of our #LetUsWatch campaign all games will be available for fans.

“Many Premier League clubs have already taken money from fans for matches they can’t attend, so we urge them to get refunds out to those supporters as soon as possible, particularly season ticket holders.

“We’ve already heard from many supporters and FSA members who are concerned about the £15 per game being charged and we’d urge BT Sport and Sky Sports to reconsider their pricing for these games.”

Alex Hurst, the chair of Newcastle United’s Supporters Trust said:external-link “The idea that Premier League clubs need to implement PPV because of economic needs would carry more weight if they hadn’t just spent £1bn on players, furloughed staff, received government loans, weren’t charging fans for games they aren’t going to and hadn’t just made thousands of staff redundant.”

Supporters of EFL clubs can buy match passes to watch their teams for £10 using the iFollow service.

‘The Premier League’s move has raised eyebrows within government’ – analysis

BBC sports editor Dan Roan

Ever since last season resumed, all Premier League matches have been available to watch live via the top flight’s broadcast partners. This was partly to help the government encourage fans to stay at home while games stayed behind closed doors, rather than congregating outside grounds or in pubs.

But having had their hopes of a partial return of fans inside grounds from 1 October dashed, despite the success of pilot events, the clubs have had enough of generating nothing from these matches.

Their annoyance at being told turnstiles must remain shut when pressure is also building on them to come up with a bailout for the EFL, is likely to have hardened their stance.

But after clubs spent more than £1bn in the summer transfer window, and at a time when many supporters will be struggling financially, there will be anger about having to pay £15 for matches fans had grown used to watching for no extra cost, on top of their subscriptions for Sky and BT. Those who have also bought season tickets will be particularly infuriated.

I understand the Premier League’s move has raised eyebrows within government, and clubs will now come under renewed pressure to refund season ticket holders, and perhaps reduce the pay-per-view cost going forward.

October fixtures (all times subject to change)

Saturday 17 October

Everton v Liverpool – BT Sport (12:30 BST)

Chelsea v Southampton – PPV (15:00 BST)

Leicester City v Aston Villa – PPV (15:00 BST)

Newcastle v Manchester United – PPV (15:00 BST)

Sheffield United v Fulham – PPV (15:00 BST)

West Brom v Burnley – PPV (15:00 BST)

Manchester City v Arsenal – Sky Sports (17:30 BST)

Sunday 18 October

Crystal Palace v Brighton – Sky Sports (14:00 BST)

Tottenham v West Ham – Sky Sports (16:30 BST)

Monday 19 October

Leeds v Wolves – Sky Sports (20:00 BST)

Saturday 24 October

West Ham v Manchester City – BT Sport (12:30 BST)

Arsenal v Leicester – PPV (15:00 BST)

Aston Villa v Leeds – PPV (15:00 BST)

Brighton v West Brom – PPV (15:00 BST)

Fulham v Crystal Palace – PPV (15:00 BST)

Liverpool v Sheffield United – PPV (15:00 BST)

Manchester United v Chelsea – Sky Sports (17:30 BST)

Sunday 25 October

Southampton v Everton – Sky Sports (14:00 GMT)

Wolves v Newcastle – Sky Sports (16:30 GMT)

Monday 26 October

Burnley v Tottenham – Sky Sports (20:00 GMT)

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Nine’s $30m TV gamble, broadcast rights, Bledisloe

Channel 9 is weighing up whether to spend $30 million for the broadcast rights to Australian rugby games as the code remains in limbo when it comes to settling on a new TV deal.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports Nine Entertainment Co is in “advanced talks” with Rugby Australia (RA) about coming to terms on a deal that would see the sport Down Under broadcast on free-to-air TV as well as on streaming service Stan.

Watch every match of the 2020 Bledisloe Cup & Rugby Championship Live & On-Demand on Kayo. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly

The Australian first reported last month Nine had emerged as a candidate to save rugby as the code struggled to find a TV partner to generate desperately-needed revenue.

At the time, it was reported Nine had not made a formal offer or publicly expressed a strong desire to establish a relationship with rugby. In August, Nine CEO Hugh Marks said investing in rugby was “not a big priority” for the network — which already broadcasts rugby league and the Australian Open tennis — and added: “We are getting a long more bang for our buck out of content that is either news and current affairs … or entertainment.”

But the network appears to have changed its mind as it ponders swooping in to win the TV rights after all.

Last month Channel 10 — the long-time free-to-air rugby broadcaster — put in a bid to show Wallabies matches but wanted a discount from RA. It reportedly offered less than its current deal of $3.5 million a year to show Wallabies Tests.

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Foxtel is also keen to extend its 20-year relationship with rugby, reportedly submitting a bid of between $30m and $40m a year to televise Wallabies games, Super Rugby and the National Rugby Championship.

The offer came after Foxtel threatened to walk away from the negotiating table altogether as talks with RA broke down late last year.

Like Foxtel, Nine’s proposal would include the rights to broadcast Wallabies matches, Super Rugby and the National Rugby Championship. Although financially its bid isn’t as lucrative as Foxtel’s, The Herald reports RA approached Nine to gauge its interest in televising the sport, and is keen on working with the network because it would allow more Australians to consume its product via free-to-air TV, rather than on pay TV with Foxtel.

The length of any deal RA strikes is reportedly set to last for less than five years.

Former RA CEO Raelene Castle stood down in April under immense pressure as she failed to strike a TV deal before COVID-19 turned everything on its head.

She was confident of coming to terms with Optus, having shunned an earlier offer from Foxtel because she believed she could get more money elsewhere. But the global pandemic meant her dream deal never eventuated and the code faced financial ruin.

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Foxtel lodges bid for rugby union broadcast rights

Foxtel, Ten and BSkyB are at the end of a $285 million five-year deal with RA signed in 2015. Securing a new deal is crucial for the code as it provides financial certainty and a large amount of RA’s revenue comes from the money from broadcasters. The code is also trying to secure a new sponsor after Qantas ended its 30-year-long relationship last week.

A successful bid by Foxtel would put an end to a tumultuous period between the News Corp-controlled pay TV company and RA. The broadcaster, which runs Fox Sports, offered to sign a new five-year deal late last year but discussions fell apart over the pricing. At the time, it looked as though Foxtel was prepared to sever the lengthy relationship.

Former RA boss Raelene Castle took the offer to market and telco Optus came close to signing a deal before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Foxtel’s bid follows an offer from Network Ten to broadcast the Wallabies Tests. International Tests played in Australia and New Zealand, and all matches of the rugby World Cup that involve Australia, must be broadcast on free-to-air television under anti-siphoning laws. The free-to-air broadcaster, which holds the rights, bid for them again but offered less than its current payment of about $3.5 million a year. The length of the deal and the potential to pick up new game formats are still on the cards.

Should the two bids succeed, rugby fans would experience little change to the way the sport is broadcast, but there may be others looking to secure a deal. Nine, the owners of this masthead, is still in talks with the code about whether it can make a deal work and is watching the negotiation process closely.

Amazon, which recently secured the rights to a one-off Eight Nations tournament in Europe, previously declined to comment on whether it was involved in the local tender process. Amazon Prime’s local boss Arno Lenior was head of marketing at Samsung when it became the major sponsor of Ten’s Sochi Winter Olympics. Hamish McLennan, former Ten chief executive and current chair of RA, secured the Sochi deal.


Industry sources previously said Amazon Prime was interested in the rights. Optus, once considered the front-runner, did not express a formal interest in the revised broadcast rights package when it was released last month.

The news comes as New Zealand announced it will reprise the domestic Super Rugby Aotearoa competition in 2021 without Australian or Pacific islands teams.

New Zealand Rugby had hoped to include a team from the Pacific islands for next year’s tournament and invited expressions of interest from Australia. However, NZR chairman Brett Impey said the pandemic had shelved those plans.

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Seven refuses to pay Cricket Australia full price to broadcast the summer of cricket

Seven West Media has refused to pay full price for its broadcast rights with Cricket Australia (CA), making a partial payment that is certain to stretch a relationship that is already incredibly strained.

Foxtel is yet to reveal its cards publicly but is also believed to be adopting a similar approach to Seven in its pursuit of a discount from CA.

Seven and CA remain at loggerheads on the eve of the 2020-21 season, with the disgruntled free-to-air broadcaster threatening to walk away from its $450 commitment to the sport.

The media giant last week issued CA a legal letter, declaring the governing body had breached its contract.

CA is yet to formally respond to that dispute, which if further escalated could potentially result in Seven terminating its deal.

The broadcaster, which used a range of arguments while pushing for its annual rights fee to be reduced, has now grown tired of CA’s refusal to enter negotiations and opted to apply its own discount.

Seven, which was due to pay $25 million to CA on Tuesday, has confirmed a smaller total has been transferred.

Seven refused to reveal the exact figure transferred to CA.(AP: Trevor Collens)

“Seven has paid the first instalment reflecting our assessment of fair value,” Seven chief executive James Warburton said in a statement.

Seven is unlikely to make future payments, which indicates a legal stoush is looming unless the feuding parties reconcile their significant differences soon.

CA’s interim chief executive Nick Hockley is desperate to avoid a hammer blow to his organisation’s revenue.

He has the backing of a board that has repeatedly declared it will not offer any form of discount on the six-year broadcast deal, which totalled $1.2 billion and was signed in 2018.

Hockley released a statement highlighting the upside of what he termed a “massive summer of cricket”.

“We are confident of delivering a compelling summer schedule that will meet our commitments to our broadcast partners and the high expectations of our fans,” he said.

Seven and Foxtel both remain frustrated at CA’s inability to deliver a final schedule for 2020-21.

CA is waiting on state-government clearances before releasing its updated fixtures list.

The governing body has repeatedly insisted it will, unlike the AFL and NRL, deliver a full season of content as promised.

“We will hold up our end of the bargain. I am sure Channel Seven and Foxtel will as well,” CA chairman Earl Eddings said earlier this year.

India captain Virat Kohli and Australia captain Tim Paine shake hands at the SCG after the Test series between their teams.
Australia is set to play India in four Tests this summer.(AP: Rick Rycroft)

Seven has guaranteed it will broadcast cricket while the dispute rumbles on, starting with the season-opening women’s trans-Tasman Twenty20 on September 26.

“We’ll keep putting on a good show and it’ll be great for lots and lots and lots of Australians to watch it,” national men’s coach Justin Langer said.

Warburton refused to reveal the exact figure transferred to CA but noted Seven picked the number after consulting a third party.

“Putting aside the questions of breach, in accordance with the contract Seven has invoked the right to appoint an independent expert,” he said.

“To determine the fair value of the media rights against the expected schedule for the season, compared to the originally published schedule.”


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Waratahs bank on big broadcast deal to stem flow of players

While other teams continue to sign players in anticipation of a favourable broadcast deal, Doorn said the risk mitigation advice NSW had been given was that it would be “crazy” to continue signing players as normal.

RA has begun formal negotiations regarding a new broadcast deal from next year. While it is unclear how many broadcasters registered interest, Foxtel and Network 10, who show rugby at present, are understood to both be at the table.

There was understandable excitement on Friday on their behalf when Australia managed to secure hosting rights for a six-week Rugby Championship tournament.

The November and early December time slot is a winner by way of there being no other major football code on TV on weekends, and interim RA chief executive Rob Clarke believes rugby’s golden opportunity can be a win for broadcasters, too.

NSW Rugby boss Paul Doorn.

NSW Rugby boss Paul Doorn.

“I know the broadcasters are very excited by it, and so they should be,” Clarke said. “I know Fox and Ten will love the fact they’re getting such quality rugby at that time of the year and it will drive, I hope, some subscriptions and viewership for them.”

Clarke wouldn’t talk about ongoing broadcast discussions, but there are rumblings inside Super Rugby franchises still in the dark about what they can and can’t do.

There is also the stark reality that if the Rugby Championship had to be cancelled, due to a COVID-19 outbreak or another issue, the rest of this year’s broadcast money would not flow in, a situation that would have a trickle-down effect for everyone in the game.

It’s why RA and the NSW government are going to such extreme lengths to make sure arriving teams, such as those from Argentina who have had players test positive to COVID-19, will be isolated in a hub with strict protocols enforced to ensure the tournament goes ahead.

“The message to Rugby Australia is we’re just desperate for them to get the best possible outcome and to know as soon as we possibly can,” Doorn said. “The only assurances we’ve got from Rugby Australia include our funding for this quarter and the final quarter of the year. That’s as far as it goes. I don’t want to comment at all about the discussions with Rugby Australia, clearly because that’s a commercially sensitive time for those guys.


“If and when the financials of next year and televisions deals are known, and our funding with Rugby Australia is known, then we’ve got an ability to be able to grow into that. You’ve just got to be a bit careful that you don’t overcommit or fully commit at this point in time.”

The Waratahs have had to be very selective with who they sign and it has cost them a couple of big names. While they’ve announced Will Harrison and Jack Maddocks will be on the books next year, the club could not come to an agreement with Force centre Godwin, who was all but a done deal to come to NSW.

There’s also 20-Test Hanigan, who Doorn said was a player they wanted to keep but, given the circumstances, wasn’t able to hold onto.

“We’ve not been able to secure some of the players back when the freeze was first lifted,” Doorn said. “The Ned Hanigans and those guys we would have loved to have kept but just weren’t in a position at that point in time. It has been challenging to say the least. Our goal here is to put together the best possible roster that we can but still live within our means for 2021.

“Everyone fully appreciates where we’re at. Even I would say there are levels of frustration, not with the business, just the environment we’re living in.”

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Optus not interested in Rugby Australia broadcast rights


Before the RA broadcast rights talks restarted, Optus launched OS Fitness, a channel for subscribers with yoga and pilates, strength, core and high-intensity workouts that can be done at home. In August, 12 per cent of Optus Sport users watched the content. The fitness channel also experienced a large spike in minutes streamed after Melbourne entered stage four lockdown.

Optus’ absence from the official negotiating table leaves RA with fewer choices for a broadcasting partner. Fox Sports, which has broadcast Super Rugby since its inception in 1996, remains interested in rugby – particularly Super Rugby and Test matches. Amazon, which last week secured the rights to a one-off Eight Nations tournament in Europe, declined to comment on whether it was involved in the local tender process.

Meanwhile Network Ten, which is currently the free-to-air broadcaster for the Wallabies matches, did submit a formal expression of interest. Ten is the only commercial free-to-air broadcaster to formally enter talks, but sources have indicated the broadcaster is looking to pay less than it currently does for the matches. Ten currently pays about $3.5 million a year as part of RA’s $285 million deal signed with the broadcaster, Foxtel and BSkyB in 2015.

Earlier this year, RA rejected an offer from Foxtel’s sports network Fox Sports for the 2021-2025 rights which resulted in an open tender. Optus, which operates streaming platform Optus Sport, was in advanced talks to buy the rights, but they fell over when the pandemic hit. The telco provider’s interest has subsided since then.

In that time the code has gone through several major changes, including the installation of new chairman Hamish McLennan and interim chief executive Rob Clarke. Securing a new broadcast deal is one of the key priorities for RA as it looks to secure financial certainty for the code (the existing arrangement with RA’s broadcast partners expires at the end of the year).

When RA put its broadcast offering out publicly last month, it gave bidders the option to cherry pick different competitions and types of rugby content. This includes a combination of existing products like Bledisloe Cup matches and Shute Shield and new products such as a ‘State of Union’ three-game series. RA has not provided clarity on what next year’s Super Rugby season will look like.

The organisation has since announced the Rugby Championship will run in Australia. Clarke said the current broadcasters were very excited by it. “I know Fox and Ten will love the fact they’re getting such quality rugby at that time of the year and will drive, I hope, some subscriptions and viewership for them,” he said.

Sports codes are facing similar pressures to television broadcasters and telco providers due to the coronavirus crisis. Foxtel boss Patrick Delany said earlier this month that the subscription television operator would only focus on acquiring TV rights to ‘tier-one’ sports moving forward.

So far this year, Foxtel, Nine Entertainment Co (owner of this masthead) and Seven West Media have secured reductions on existing deals with the NRL and AFL. The broadcasters, which lost large amounts of advertisers during the pandemic, argued a reduction in matches and lack of crowds reduced the value of the sports codes they broadcast. Seven is separately trying to terminate its contract with Cricket Australia.

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Rugby Australia broadcast deal report reveals $15 million black hole

Rugby Australia is on its knees after an alarming report revealed the desperate state of the game’s broadcast deal negotiations.

Having put together an on-the-run one-season deal with Fox Sports to broadcast the Super Rugby Australia season this year, Rugby Australia is staring at the bleak reality of a further reduction in the game’s value to potential broadcast partners.

According to an exclusive report in The Australian, Rugby Australia is facing a confronting future with a domestic rugby competition now likely to be worth no more than $10 million per season.

The NRL’s previous broadcast deal with Channel 9 and Foxtel before chairman Peter V’landys renegotiated an extension during the coronavirus-forced season suspension earlier this year was worth $360 million per year.

The grim outlook for the 15-a-side game means the sport is facing a broadcast deal worth just $20 million per year with Wallabies Test matches reported to be worth a further $10 million per year.

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Fox Sports still in hunt for rugby broadcast rights despite missing deadline

Instead of putting forward a whole-of-game broadcast rights package, RA has given potential bidders the option to cherry pick different competitions and pieces of rugby content.

The hard part, however, is that RA is not 100 per sure what next year’s version of Super Rugby will look like. All indications are that another instalment of Super Rugby AU will run for a second season before a trans-Tasman competition in 2022, but that still needs sign-off from multiple parties.

Fox Sports, which as broadcast Super Rugby since its inception in 1996, are understood to be interested in rugby – particularly Super Rugby and Test matches – and have had meetings with RA over the past few weeks. There have also been internal discussions among executives to talk about the potential production costs associated with broadcasting rugby once again.


A source with knowledge of the negotiations said that while Foxtel didn’t formally express interest on Friday, they had a “foot inside the process” and that clarity was being sought as to what was exactly on offer.

Earlier this week, Clarke said he was confident number of parties would come to the table.

“We’ve had very good dialogue with a range of broadcasters,” Clarke told the Herald on Wednesday. “As to what comes in in the form of official proposals on Friday, I’ll tell you on Friday.”

Clarke could not be contacted for comment on Friday, while RA would not confirm whether any formal expressions of interest had come forward on its deadline day.

The September 4 deadline does not mean others cannot come forward in coming weeks to enquire about what is for sale and at what price.

RA is in a weak negotiating position on a number of fronts. It has trumpeted a new State of Union series, rugby’s version of State of Origin, and a Super Eight concept – where provincial teams from across the world come together in four-week competition – but the reality is RA will take advice from broadcasters as to what they would like to show.

There would be nothing stopping Fox Sports playing the waiting game before swooping and getting the rights at a discounted rate.

RA understands that it won’t be able to demand anywhere near the same amount of money as its last deal that expires on December 31.

Optus are understood to be still interested but are yet to claim so publicly. The telco was right in the running to make a play for the rights before COVID-19 brought a sudden halt to negotiations in March.


This week Foxtel boss Patrick Delany took a subtle swipe at rugby’s position in the pecking order.

He mentioned AFL, NRL, cricket and motor sport as “tier-one sports” and said the others were “going to have to adjust”.

“We are now quite fearless of losing a sport,” he said.

In reply, Clarke said: “As one of the largest global sports, I think rugby is a tier-one sport.”

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