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Nine ‘in talks’ with Rugby Australia over media rights

Rugby Championship Test Match between the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at Optus Stadium on August 10, 2019 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Australian free-to-air broadcaster Nine is reported to be in talks with Rugby Australia about a deal to take exclusive control of the organisation’s domestic media rights.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Nine would exploit the rights across its free-to-air channel and subscription streaming platform Stan.

RA has historically split the rights between a free-to-air partner and Australia’s leading pay-television platform Foxtel. Foxtel is also reported to be bidding for the rights in the next cycle.

The SMH said Nine has bid A$30m ($21.5m/€18.3m) per year, offering a mixture of cash and advertising airtime. This is reported to be lower than Foxtel’s current bid, which was said to be close to what the broadcaster paid in its previous deal, which was terminated this year. Foxtel was paying in the range A$30m to A$40m per year.

Free-to-air broadcaster Ten has also been reported to have made an offer to acquire rights in the new cycle. Ten sublicensed rights for one Super Rugby match per week and home national team matches from Foxtel in the current cycle, 2016 to 2020.

RA issued a rights tender in August with a variety of options for broadcasters. These included potential new competitions and different possibilities for the future of the Super Rugby competition. The disruption to the rugby calendar caused by the pandemic has forced a rethink of Super Rugby by the participating Sanzaar unions – Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa. It is not yet clear what form the competition will take in future.

Foxtel had the RA’s domestic rights in the previous cycle, from 2016 to 2020. The deal was renegotiated this year due to the changes to Super Rugby and the international match calendar.

RA has been negotiating with broadcasters about its rights in the next cycle, 2021 to 2025, since last year. The sales process was halted due to the pandemic, but has now resumed.