Talks had also been held with ‘disruptors’ such as Netflix and Google, but they too were pursuing revenue-share arrangements. Those options were ultimately dismissed because the NRL would have also been required to wear the $50 million production costs that Nine and Fox currently absorb.
The clubs were told that free-to-air negotiations would commence this year and that there was a chance of three bidders providing competitive tension. However, Seven’s involvement could be contingent on whether it could extricate itself from its current agreement to broadcast the cricket.
The NRL’s deal with Fox, which provides 66 per cent of broadcast revenue, doesn’t lapse until 2027. The agreement with Nine, publishers of this masthead, ends in 2022.
The clubs were told the NRL would balance the potential extra revenue it could generate through subscription services with the need to reach as many viewers as possible on free-to-air channels in concluding the next deal.
V’landys and Abdo also told the clubs that a decision on expansion was expected to be delivered by June or July. A business case would need to be made for a 17th team to be introduced and the incumbent franchises were assured they would not be adversely affected if that were to occur.
The NRL’s financial result was achieved despite revenue reducing by more than $130 million, or 25 per cent, last year. V’landys, who was re-elected chairman of the ARLC, said the result was better than anticipated.
“We increased net payments for clubs by 300 per cent to ensure they all stayed viable and have funds for the future,” he said.
“This is in stark contrast to other sports which either reduced funding to their clubs or maintained the same level of funding in their clubs’ time of need given the disastrous impact of COVID-19 on their other sources of revenue.
“The game faced financial catastrophe when we were forced to suspend the season in March. I’m pleased to report that because we were able to resume the season so quickly and re-negotiate new deals with our partners, the game finished the financial year in much stronger shape than first predicted.
“We’ve recorded a modest deficit and had State of Origin been played in the 2020 financial year we would have been close to breaking even.
“What I’m most pleased about is that these results were achieved while ensuring the financial security of all stakeholders. The Commission made it a priority to make sure all clubs were provided with additional funding to ensure they survived the pandemic.”
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Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.
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