ARL Commission chair Peter V’landys has allayed concerns about the Nine Network walking away from the game in the near future, saying the broadcaster has a contract to fulfil.
V’landys’ response comes after Nine chief executive Hugh Marks on Tuesday claimed it wasn’t a “given” the NRL was a part of the network’s future.
Marks promised to continue to be “hard” in delicate talks with the league over how much it will pay to broadcast this year’s re-jigged season.
He said the NRL re-starting this season would prove to be a net negative, but V’landys insisted he wasn’t concerned by the comments.
“Hugh’s been totally transparent but I’m still very confident that we will come to an arrangement with Channel Nine,” V’landys told AAP.
“Hugh’s a very good negotiator and uses strategy exceptionally well.
“But I’m not concerned about it.”
What might cause apprehension for the league was Marks’ thoughts on the free-to-air broadcaster’s long-term partnership with the game.
Marks said the network was less reliant on the NRL as a revenue source and the coronavirus had prompted a re-think of sports rights.
“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,” Marks said at a Macquarie Conference call on Tuesday.
“Now’s the time when we need to make the changes necessary to make these sports rights more sustainable.”
V’landys shrugged off any suggestion that Nine would walk away from the game before its current broadcast deal expires at the end of the 2022 season.
Nine is understood to be tipping in about $120 million into the NRL a year, but that number could reduce if a renegotiated deal is extended.
“There’s a contract in place, a legally binding contract. And even Hugh himself would understand that,” V’landys said.
“So basically, he would have to get out of the contract. There’s a long way to play yet. He’s playing a strategic game and it’s working well for him.
“So I’m not going to criticise it. We’ll keep moving forward with them. I’m still confident we’ll come to a resolution.
“But never-the-less, as a good partner, we’re looking to assist them in these harsh economic times. We don’t want our partner to suffer significant losses.
“Naturally, we’re at the table talking about it.”