Channel Nine outlines vision for preferred NRL future

Channel Nine has outlined a vision of its preferred future NRL television deal at a crisis meeting with ARLC chairman Peter V'landys, with the free-to-air broadcaster favouring two exclusive games per round as part of an extended rights contract.

After Nine boss Hugh Marks met with V'landys at Racing NSW headquarters on Tuesday, sources close to the negotiations told the Herald that Channel Nine, publisher of this masthead, wanted to give up the Thursday night game and concentrate on its traditional Friday night and Sunday afternoon time slots.

It also hopes pay-TV broadcaster Foxtel, who will join Nine and the NRL in negotiations later this week, can be convinced to relinquish its Friday 6pm game as part of a new rights deal that would do away with the current simulcast arrangement.

"Today, Nine CEO Hugh Marks and I had a constructive and co-operative meeting about rugby league in 2020 and beyond," V'landys said in a statement after the meeting.

"I am buoyed by Mr Marks’ support of rugby league and his commitment to the game. The meeting provided us with the opportunity to outline our positions and discuss next steps to navigate this crisis.

"We are both focused on the long-term success of the game and, while there is more work to do, I am optimistic we will find a way through this together. Our next meeting, where we will endeavour to construct a road map for the game this year, must include Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany."

The Herald has been told by sources with knowledge of the meeting that Nine also expressed its preference to wipe the 2020 season, in stark contrast to V'landys' push for a May 28 restart. The end result could fall somewhere in the middle.

Nine doesn't want to walk away from the game. It wants a two-year extension, but under different terms and for less than the $110 million it currently pays the governing body each year.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NRL has been unable to deliver on the product its broadcasters had expected as part of a $1.8 billion rights deal over five years. The NRL has enacted the force majeure clause after being left with no choice but to breach its contract with its broadcast partners.

None of the parties involved wants to see the matter head to court, hence the renegotiation that's about to take place between V'landys, Marks and Delany.

V'landys is a realist. It's unlikely the NRL will deliver all of its promised content this year, and the world in which $1.8 billion rugby league broadcast deals are done may no longer exist.

Foxtel has recently made moves to lower its cost base. Only last week it made 200 staff redundant and stood down another 140 employees until the end of June.

Right now Fox Sports broadcasts all eight games, three of which are simulcast with Nine and five exclusive matches.

Changing the structure to suit Nine would also benefit Fox. The fact it has only six exclusive games is unlikely to impact on the number of subscribers - which underpins its business - but will mean it can reduce the $190 million it currently pays for the rights to all eight games.

Under that scenario, both both Fox and Nine win. They want to pay less. The NRL might not be quite as happy with the result but it gets the security of a deal for at least another two years in a climate that is providing very little certainty.

The NRL had been holding out hope of extracting more than $1.8bn in the 2023-2027 rights deal. It could call Nine's bluff, but it runs the risk of attracting even less, if any, revenue from Channel Seven or Channel 10.

Then there's the problem of starting a competition that is also meeting some resistance from government.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a rugby league tragic, applauded the NRL's determination to return to normality but reiterated a need to adhere to the nation's health advice.

"I like the ambition," Morrison said. "I like they are trying to get the show back on the road in some way. It will be subject to health advice and there will be no special arrangements."

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro seems to be the most vocal in his support of a May 28 NRL restart, volunteering to act as a “conduit” between the government and the league

"It’s an ambitious date but you have to set a target,” Barilaro told Fox Sports.

"I’m confident they can have a plan in place, and can get the health experts to sign off on it. It's not against the rules. They have every right to try and return. It's an ambitious date but it is one worth trying to get to."

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  • I honestly hope this backfires badly on ch9, with one of the other FTA coming to the table to take over.

    Ch9 is so far behind being the preferred place to watch the games, if it wasn't for the SOO and GF exclusive rights I wouldn't bother with ch9 ever again.

    • reported on fox that 7 is cashed up and expressed interest


  • That's it exactly "channel 9 are so far behind" . It really appears that 9 want out of any games that they don't have exclusivity on. There coverage/presentation is not competing with fox's and there numbers of viewers have dropped by huge margins. If 9 pulls out they save 130 million this year. Astonishing.

    Channel 9 have been on a massive down slide for some years as has most free to air channels, I think we are seeing the beginning of a massive shift in free to air content / sport due to online streaming pay per view etc.  9 basically gave the cricket away and now they are doing the same with the NRL.  Sands are shifting.

    • I hope it goes like the cricket.and they loose the lot

    • I think rather they are looking more strategically. In the past, owning the rights to the big 3, (NRL, AFL & cricket) was so that they could brag about being the "home of ....". Now the networks are looking to shave as much off their risk profile as they can, without cutting into revenue excessively. 

      Live sport is still king regardless of platform. Nine still want the footy, but they aren't interested in paying to be the home of rugby league anymore, but they still want Friday Night Footy, Sunday Afternoon footy (to lead into the sunday night news), Origin & Finals Footy. They'll pay for the premium content, but not for the whole lot. That's actually good for the NRL, certainly in the long term.

  • This reply was deleted.
  • I think is the right step forward for both Nine & Foxtel, and I think the idea of fragmenting the rights rather than bundling them is the future.

  • I so want CBS/10 come to the party. At least with the news limited hacks that do there propanganda for news , they are "So called journos". The nine hacks are people that were apart of the game and they way they doing nines bidding is a disgrace .

    NRL again embroiled in a super league war between nine and news. Both have been screwing league . Hope this virus shit gets sorted and they go on the streaming platforms / and go strength to strength as those services will help the game grow internationally not like news /nine who have stalled development of game both here and abroad.

    also rich from channel nine , they have NO RIGHT to hammer league on their inept management, they are a customer they do not own the game . Also but rich from them considering. They had to be bought out as they were going broke. Few years back and Penrith didn't cover themselves in glory with spending Either . It really is the kettle calling the pot in this instance 

  • I hope the Thursday night game gets the boot. It's obviously a ratings fizzer, and doesn't pull the crowds. One game on Friday nights, 4 games back-to-back Saturdays from 2pm and 3 Sunday games from 2pm, including a Sunday night game each week.  

    • How many were at the Parramatta vs Canterbury game in the first round Thursday night footy? It all depends who plays, Titans & Warriors Thursday night 👎

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