The AFL is also negotiating a new 2020 rights package dependent on its revised fixture.
Nine has strategically ramped up its AFL content in recent times, screening stable program Footy Classified two nights a week in Melbourne and significantly increasing its digital AFL content.
The current six-year, $2.56 billion deal, is worth about $418 million a season.
The expectation of reduced broadcast dollars, and no crowds for the remainder of the home-and-away season, plus the huge debt the AFL will be carrying as a result of COVID-19, will lead to a reduced salary cap and cuts across the board.
Marks, speaking with analysts and investors as part of the Macquarie Australia Conference 2020 on Tuesday, provided an insight into Nine’s hard-nosed approach and gave the strongest indication yet the network could relinquish its rights to rugby league.
‘‘It’s not a given that NRL has to be part of our future,’’ Marks said on the conference. ‘‘It has to just pay its way like all of our content does, and if it doesn’t, well … again, we are less reliant on that as a revenue source.’’
Marks has reiterated his concerns to ARLC chairman Peter V’landys in recent negotiations, with The Age reporting that Nine want to pay $28 million less than the $118 million they were due to pay in 2020.
Sources close to negotiations have since told The Age that Nine is seeking a further reduction as part of the company’s reassessment of the value of live sport, but is willing to provide the NRL with the long-term security of an extended rights deal until the end of 2025, an additional three years on top of the current arrangement that expires at the end of 2022.
‘‘COVID has changed how you need to consider sports rights and evaluation of sports rights for the future because if we don’t take that change now like we are in all other aspects of our business and we wait until the contract expires in two years … everyone’s in for a rude shock in two years,’’ Marks said.
‘‘Now’s the time when we need to make the changes necessary to make these sports rights more sustainable. The future of our businesses is in aggregated video consumption. We’re a business that actually is now less reliant on live sport and the reason for a lot of sport and its being was its volume contribution to free-to-air advertising.
‘‘But as you move and you create profitability and revenue and other mediums which are not reliant on sport, all of a sudden as a business we’re able to be a lot more analytical and perhaps a lot more disciplined around those decisions. And that’s where I think we’ve really been quite hard on that NRL discussion.’’
Sam McClure is a sport reporter for The Age and winner of ‘best news reporter’ at the AFL Media Association awards.
Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald