The deal, which was the final hurdle in V’landys’ push for a May 28 competition restart, will allow the NRL to finalise a draw as early as the end of this week. Nine, the publisher of this masthead, had the best part of three seasons remaining on its deal with the NRL but the COVID-19 crisis has allowed the broadcaster to renegotiate the value of the arrangement.
Sources with knowledge of the negotiations say Nine’s revised deal could represent a saving of up to 20 per cent on what it was originally due to pay in the final three years of the deal. Based on that discount, Nine will pay about $85-$90m in 2020, a discount of up to $30m. It will pay in the vicinity of $90-$100m in the final two years.
The deal is a win for Nine and the NRL, as it leaves its options open for more financially viable free-to-air networks to bid for the rights in the future. Both Nine, which had been willing to walk away from the sport, and the NRL were forced to reach a compromise in the hope of avoiding a drawn-out courtroom battle.
Foxtel is also closing in on finalising a deal with the sport that is worth up to $1.6b should they commit until 2027. Fox Sports was due to contribute about $190m this year, increasing by $10m in each of the next two years.
Sources close to the negotiation say Fox will now pay a significantly reduced fee in 2020 and average payments of about $200m a season for up to the next seven years.
Securing the NRL rights until 2027 is a major boost for the pay-TV network, which has slashed more than 300 jobs over two months. Foxtel had 2.93 million subscribers as of March 31, a figure driven by growth of its sports subscription service Kayo. Subscriber numbers for Kayo fell from 444,000 in March to just over 272,000 by May 2.