NRL’s lifeline in TV mega-deal

Rugby league bosses are willing to contemplate a whopping five-year extension to their current broadcasting deals with Foxtel and the Nine Network as they look to future-proof the code and ensure their clubs and players have a billion-dollar backstop for protection.

On the same day Nine boss Hugh Marks warned the station's love affair with rugby league may be coming to an end, News Corp can reveal the idea of a new deal that would secure the game's broadcasting rights until the end of 2027 is in the mix.

ARL Commission chair Peter V'landys was reluctant to discuss the broadcasting negotiations, although further talks will be held this week as the parties attempt to strike a deal for the remainder of this season.

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V'Landys knows he can’t promise anything yet. Photo: Toby Zerna
V'Landys knows he can’t promise anything yet. Photo: Toby Zerna



There has been talk that contracts with Nine and Foxtel could be extended as part of those negotiations and it is understood rugby league officials are open to additional five years if that helps get a deal over the line.

The slow progress of broadcasting talks have delayed an announcement on the draw and hampered efforts to set the salary and football caps for next season and beyond.

Marks has been a thorn in the NRL's side during talks and he continued his aggressive commentary at the Macquarie Australia Conference 2020 on Tuesday afternoon.

"It's not a given that NRL has to be part of our future," Marks said.

"It has to just pay its way like all of our content does, and if it doesn't, well … again, we are less reliant on that as a revenue source."

Marks said he wanted to get out of the way and allow the NRL to restart this season. But he added that beyond that, nothing had been set in stone.

"We have to be hard … we have agreed to nothing this year," he said. "There is no agreement on value or for how long."



Hugh Marks is playing hardball with the NRL. Photo: AAP Image/Joel Carrett
Hugh Marks is playing hardball with the NRL. Photo: AAP Image/Joel Carrett



Both the Nine Network and Foxtel are attempting to drive down the value of rights this season, citing a shortened schedule, as well as the lack of crowds and subsequent atmosphere at games.

At the same time, V'landys is doing his level best to extract as much as he can from the broadcasters to secure the game's future.

He provided an update on the talks to the commission on Tuesday night but was well aware of Marks' comments when he emerged from those discussions.

"We're comfortable with where we are with Channel 9 and we will continue to work with them to get to the end," V'landys said.

"I am not going to go into public with commercially sensitive negotiations but all I can say is the discussion with Nine continue to be fruitful.

"It is a complex process that is not easy to explain to people."

The frustration is palpable in clubland as officials struggle to plan a future with so much uncertainty surrounding the code. V'landys is determined to get a deal done, hence the game's willingness to consider another five-year term so soon after agreeing to their existing deal, which is worth close to $2 billion and runs until the end of 2022.


Originally published as NRL's lifeline in TV mega-deal