Channel 9 is weighing up whether to spend $30 million for the broadcast rights to Australian rugby games as the code remains in limbo when it comes to settling on a new TV deal.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports Nine Entertainment Co is in “advanced talks” with Rugby Australia (RA) about coming to terms on a deal that would see the sport Down Under broadcast on free-to-air TV as well as on streaming service Stan.
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The Australian first reported last month Nine had emerged as a candidate to save rugby as the code struggled to find a TV partner to generate desperately-needed revenue.
At the time of that report RA indicated Nine had tabled an offer, but the network denied that suggestion.
In August, Nine CEO Hugh Marks said investing in rugby was “not a big priority” for the network — which already broadcasts rugby league and the Australian Open tennis — and added: “We are getting a long more bang for our buck out of content that is either news and current affairs … or entertainment.”
But the network appears to have changed its tune as it seriously considers swooping in to win the TV rights after all.
Last month Channel 10 — the long-time free-to-air rugby broadcaster — put in a bid to show Wallabies matches but wanted a discount from RA. It reportedly offered less than its current deal of $3.5 million a year to show Wallabies Tests.
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Foxtel is also keen to extend its 20-year relationship with rugby, reportedly submitting a bid of between $30m and $40m a year to televise Wallabies games, Super Rugby and the National Rugby Championship.
The offer came after Foxtel threatened to walk away from the negotiating table altogether as talks with RA broke down late last year.
Like Foxtel, Nine’s proposal would include the rights to broadcast Wallabies matches, Super Rugby and the National Rugby Championship. Although financially its bid isn’t as lucrative as Foxtel’s, The Herald reports RA approached Nine to gauge its interest in televising the sport, and is keen on working with the network because it would allow more Australians to consume its product via free-to-air TV, rather than on pay TV with Foxtel.
The length of any deal RA strikes is reportedly set to last for less than five years.
Former RA CEO Raelene Castle stood down in April under immense pressure as she failed to strike a TV deal before COVID-19 turned everything on its head.
She was confident of coming to terms with Optus, having shunned an earlier offer from Foxtel because she believed she could get more money elsewhere. But the global pandemic meant her dream deal never eventuated and the code faced financial ruin.