The Courier-Mail

Shake up for rugby TV rights

- JAMIE PANDARAM Sports · Rugby · Super Rugby · Australia · Twentieth Century Fox Film Company Ltd. · Network Ten · Australia national rugby union team · A-League · News Corporation · New Zealand · South Africa · Africa · Japan · South America · United States of America · African Union · New South Wales · New South Wales Waratahs · Queensland Reds · Queensland · Liverpool Football Club · Brumbies · Melbourne Rebels · Western Force · Fiji · Fox Sports · New Zealand Rugby Football Union · Bradford Bulls

RUGBY Aus­tralia’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary broad­cast pack­age has reignited in­ter­est from Op­tus, with the telco set to land the rights to the code.

Fox Sports is set to bid for club rugby only, af­ter RA an­nounced broad­cast­ers could pick and choose con­tent from their new pack­age for 2021-25.

The Courier-Mail un­der­stands the new deal will in­volve Op­tus and Net­work Ten screen­ing Wal­la­bies Tests and Su­per Rugby, al­though there is some dis­agree­ment re­gard­ing the finer de­tails.

Should Op­tus get the rights, it would add to their foot­ball con­tent, hav­ing se­cured rights to the English Premier League and Euro­pean Cham­pi­ons League, as well as the Ja­panese and Korean com­pe­ti­tions, while they have been strongly tipped to take the Aus­tralian A-League from Fox Sports af­ter this sea­son.

When asked for com­ment, Op­tus said: “We don’t com­ment on rights, ei­ther cur­rent or fu­ture.”

An in­dus­try source said all con­ver­sa­tions re­gard­ing deals of this na­ture were con­ducted un­der strict nondis­clo­sure agree­ments.

RA’s rev­e­la­tion on Mon­day that they would con­sider bids for parts of their 2021-25 pack­age, as op­posed to tra­di­tional deals where bid­ders had to take the whole of­fer­ing, means prospec­tive broad­cast­ers can be cre­ative with their pitch.

Hiv­ing off dif­fer­ent tour­na­ments to dif­fer­ent out­lets may al­low RA to max­imise the out­lay on the code for the next four years, given all bids are ex­pected to be lower than the $57-mil­lion-a-year they earn from rights un­der the ex­pir­ing deal.

Sources said a bid from Op­tus would have to be around the $15m to $20m mark.

Fox Sports, hav­ing broad­cast Su­per Rugby since its in­cep­tion 25 years ago, has long held frus­tra­tion with the di­min­ish­ing rugby au­di­ence, par­tic­u­larly for Su­per Rugby, how­ever it wants to re­tain some con­tent for its pay tele­vi­sion and Kayo stream­ing cus­tomers.

With a small but rusted-on sup­porter base for club rugby in Syd­ney and Bris­bane, Fox Sports — owned by News Corp Aus­tralia — can keep a foothold in the game with­out ex­haust­ing mil­lions in pro­duc­tion costs for high level matches.

New Zealand Rugby has been given a three-week dead­line to com­mit to a trans-Tas­man Su­per Rugby com­pe­ti­tion for 2021 that in­cludes all five Aus­tralian teams, or else RA will walk away and form its own do­mes­tic tour­na­ment.

The ul­ti­ma­tum was de­liv­ered on Mon­day by RA in­terim chief ex­ec­u­tive Rob Clarke, who also re­vealed plans for an ex­cit­ing Cham­pi­ons Leaguestyl­e “Su­per Eight” com­pe­ti­tion in­volv­ing the best teams from Aus­tralia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ja­pan and South Amer­ica.

RA is tak­ing “the largest and most com­pre­hen­sive collection of rugby rights ever put to the mar­ket in Aus­tralia”, Clarke said, but most in­trigue re­volves around the fu­ture of Su­per Rugby and whether the Tas­man al­liance will be bro­ken not only for next year but the long term.

“We have put a dead­line for the broad­cast sub­mis­sions for the fourth of Septem­ber, so three weeks away, and be­fore we en­ter into any fi­nal ne­go­ti­a­tions with a broad­cast part­ner this has to be set­tled,” Clarke said. “So D-Day is com­ing.”

NZR had out­lined its own Su­per Rugby pro­posal last month that could only have two or three Aus­tralian teams.

Asked on Mon­day if RA would con­sider cut­ting any teams as a com­pro­mise to make the trans-Tas­man model work, Clarke was em­phatic. “No,” he said.

“We’ve been very con­sis­tent on that.

“We’re in­creas­ingly buoyed by the qual­ity of games we’re now start­ing to see in our (Su­per Rugby AU) com­pe­ti­tion, the two games on the week­end showed how much ris­ing tal­ent is com­ing through with our young play­ers, and this com­pe­ti­tion is re­ally start­ing to en­gage fans and show­case the fu­ture of Aus­tralian rugby.

“We’ve been say­ing this to New Zealand, and any­one who is pre­pared to lis­ten, we’re very con­fi­dent in the qual­ity of our up and com­ing tal­ent, and it’s start­ing to show.”

The ba­sis of a do­mes­tic tour­na­ment would be the ex­ist­ing five teams: NSW Waratahs, Queens­land Reds, ACT Brumbies, Mel­bourne Rebels and Western Force. RA is also look­ing at adding one or two Ja­panese teams, and Fiji’s Drua, though none are guar­an­teed for 2021.

RA is clearly frus­trated by the slow re­sponse from the Ki­wis and, af­ter weeks of lit­tle head­way be­tween Clarke and NZR coun­ter­part Mark Robin­son, Aus­tralia is tak­ing a my­way-or-the-high­way ap­proach to these ne­go­ti­a­tions.

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 ??  ?? RA chief Rob Clarke.
RA chief Rob Clarke.

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