Comparisons of broadcasting income for Australia’s two top football codes are notoriously difficult to make, especially when sports bosses hide behind “commercial-in-confidence” clauses, the same way politicians quote “national security” when refusing to answer a journalist’s questions.
V’landys won’t say how much the NRL received to extend its deal with Fox Sports until 2027, stressing it would breach its agreement with the News Corp-owned network, but conceded it was more than the 2018-22 payment.
However, the AFL announced on Christmas Eve that it had negotiated a deal with Fox until 2024, with “industry sources” saying the payment for 2023 and 2024 year represented a 25 percent increase and was $150m a year greater in each of these years than the NRL was receiving.
Fox are certainly paying the AFL more than in the previous contract, but Fox are getting more content in return. What the AFL didn’t say is that Telstra, which owns 35 percent of Fox, are cutting back on digital sports rights.
In other words, the AFL is receiving from Fox money formerly paid by Telstra, and Fox is receiving the content which formerly went to Telstra.
Telstra is expected to take a similar line with the NRL. Its contract concludes in 2022 but negotiations are complicated by the telco also having a naming rights deal with the NRL.
However, on an average annual basis, the AFL has done better in its new, two-year extended deal compared to its previous 2017-22 broadcasting contract with Fox, Seven and Telstra – even allowing for the discounts they gave broadcasters for the COVID-19 impacted 2020 season.
Seven paid more for the renegotiated 2020-2024 years, but the big question is whether the debt-burdened network can afford it. “Insiders” estimate that Seven have committed $50m a year more than it can pay and will come knocking on Fox’s door to offload some content.
Fox, also heavily indebted, won’t pay more.
The NRL doesn’t have a free-to-air deal past 2022. It also awarded rights holder, Nine, significant discounts for the 2020-22 seasons. Presumably, Nine used these savings partly to do a deal with rugby league’s historic rival, rugby union.
Rugby Australia concluded a deal late last year with Nine and its streaming arm, Stan Sport, to screen its games.
Furthermore, Stan Sport wasn’t around when V’landys extended his deal with Fox but emerged to offer some competitive tension for Fox’s extension with the AFL.
So, V’landys has been very accommodating to Nine, even making a late change in 2020 at the demand of the broadcaster to speed up the game via a “six-again” rule.
It didn’t lift ratings, which actually declined, but this was largely because Queensland turned off the game when none of its three teams made the top eight.
By contrast, the AFL got lucky with COVID, which locked down Melburnians, forcing them indoors through the 2020 winter where they were treated to a game a night, boosting Seven and Fox ratings.
But V’landys may have timed his run with the sale of free-to-air rights, following the news on Monday that News Corp-owned streaming service Kayo will screen minor sports on to its platform for free.
Could this extend to major sports? Does it mean all of Nine’s current NRL package – State of Origin, three NRL games a week, plus finals- switches over to Kayo?
Fans could click onto Kayo simply by inserting their email address, satisfying the Federal Government’s anti-siphoning legislation.
News Corp would pay a motza to control all of rugby league.
The Telstra/Foxtel announcement late this week, plus the implications of Kayo opening up its service free to “minor” sports, should clear up whether the AFL boast is “complete crap” or, as Cardinal Sin implied, “wonderful manure.”
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Roy Masters is a Sports Columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Thanks for seeing this story about the NRL named “Why Kayo could help Peter V’landys land knockout blow to AFL in TV cash fight”. This news release was posted by My Local Pages Australia as part of our news aggregator services.
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