A new $1bn-plus NRL broadcast rights deal has been finalised that sees Fox Sports commit to the code for another eight years but has undercut Nine’s planned cost savings from this year’s shortened season.
The announcement of a new broadcast deal came on Thursday night, just an hour from the kick-off of the resumed 2020 season in a clash between Parramatta and the Broncos.
Under a discounted deal with the code following the disastrous impact of COVID-19, Fox Sports have extended their deal to secure NRL for another eight years for an undisclosed amount, believed to be around $200m a year, after 2022.
Nine opted not to extend its current rights beyond 2022 at this stage.
Fox Sports was due to pay about $190m this year while Nine was due to pay about $90m-$100m.
But Fox and Nine are understood to have been given a 30 per cent discount on their deal until the end of 2022.
With the discount the two networks could save almost $200m between them over the next three years. This would see Fox Sports pay around $133m a season and Nine pay $60m-$70m.
According to an ASX statement on Thursday evening Nine Entertainment would save about $27.5m a year on their original deal, but with the season going ahead this reduces originally forecast cost savings for this year by $64m.
“As a result of the recommencement of the NRL season, Nine has revised previous cost commentary. On March 30, 2020, Nine highlighted a series of cost initiatives in CY20 that totalled cash savings of $266m, a number that was subsequently increased to $289m on May 5.
“These estimates included a $130m saving as a result of the cancellation of NRL Season 2020.
“With this newly committed season 2020 cost, the prevailing cash cost out guidance of $289m is reduced to $225m,” the statement said.
In a statement on Thursday evening, ARLC chairman Peter V’landys thanked both broadcast partners for their co-operation in helping the sport meet its ambitious May 28 kick off date.
“I am delighted to have worked with our longstanding partners Foxtel and Nine to reshape and resume the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership. It is significant that on one of the most important days in our game’s history, we have finalised the deals to ensure its future,” Mr V’landys said.
Nine chief executive Hugh Marks had previously warned the NRL of a willingness to walk away from the code if a deal could not be struck, and was highly critical of former NRL CEO Todd Greenberg.
Mr Marks initially claimed the network would save $130m a year if the 2020 season did not go ahead, earlier claiming a preference for a cancelled season, saying it would be a “net negative” for the network if the season went ahead.
Since Mr Greenberg’s resignation Mr Marks has been negotiating with NRL chair Peter V’landys as well as broadcast partner Fox Sports, led by Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany, to finalise a deal.
In a statement Mr Delany paid tribute to the “leadership” of Mr V’landys.
“Foxtel is incredibly pleased to support the NRL through this difficult period and to have footy back on Foxtel this weekend, every round, every game, live and ad free during play. This is a great outcome for footy, for fans and for players. It’s also a hugely important signal to everyone in Australia, and around the world, that we will get through these times, and we can keep players and coaching staff safe while we all enjoy the game.”
Mr Marks said on Thursday evening: “As we approach the kick off for the resumption of NRL season 2020, I want to congratulate Peter on his leadership, and also Andrew for stepping into his role.”
Under the resumed 2020 season deal Foxtel will continue to show all eight games every round, including five exclusive telecasts each weekend. Nine will continue to televise three weekly NRL matches: Thursday and Friday nights, plus Sunday afternoon. Nine will provide exclusive coverage of the October 25 Grand Final. Nine will continue its exclusive coverage of the three State of Origin matches.