The Courier-Mail

TV deal cash rise could be less than clubs wanted

P12-13

- PAUL MALONE

NRL chief executive David Smith will have to explain to cautious clubs why he did not gain full market value for the next television deal, with differing figures emerging yesterday on the real increase.

The clubs were told yesterday in an email from the NRL that Channel 9’s five-year deal worth up to $925 million was a 59 per cent increase on what Nine paid for the five years from 2013-17.

If the subscripti­on and digital rights go for a uniform increase, the total broadcast rights for 2018-22 would be $1.63 billion, up from $1.025 billion.

A Sydney news organisati­on reported Nine was paying $90 million more a year in the new rights period, which would represent a 95 per cent increase.

Comments by Smith raised flares in “clubland’’ that the free-to-air rights could have been sold for many millions more and some clubs are wary the NRL wants to beat them down to the smallest possible annual grant.

Clubs facing a $300,000 rise in the salary cap to $6.8 million next year want the grant, which is $7.7 million next year, to increase to as much as $10 million-$12 million in 2018.

Smith had spoken earlier this year about splitting State of Origin rights from the premiershi­p package and even making one weekly timeslot the property of another freeto-air network to maximise income.

Instead Nine is the relieved owner of an NRL game from 2018 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon.

Nine declined to comment when The Courier-Mail asked if it intended to broadcast four games a round or onsell one timeslot for the entire season to a commercial rival.

The Courier-Mail reported on May 5 that a fourth free-toair match per round was likely on Saturday nights from 2018.

“Selling the different components may have led to a more significan­t financial outcome, but you wouldn’t be able to get the (total package) of the premiershi­p, Origin and the internatio­nal game,’’ Smith said.

“It’s a very substantia­l deal with regards to cash.’’

Smith said the “balanced view’’ taken tied in with planning by NRL head of strategy Shane Richardson for the “whole of game review’’ later this year.

In a 16-team league, Fox Sports would have one fewer exclusive live game, but if it is willing to meet the NRL’s elevated price the subscripti­on network could buy the rights to broadcast all games live, including Nine’s four games per round.

“We still have pay television, simulcast and New Zealand and internatio­nal rights to come,’’ Smith said.

Netflix and Google are the leading “new media’’ companies the NRL has spoken to about streaming of premiershi­p matches.

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